Coast Guard saves 5 people, establishes unified command

Coast Guard Alaska NewsANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard rescued five crewmembers from the tug vessel Polar Wind which ran aground and began taking on water 20 miles east of Cold Bay at 8:58 p.m. Tuesday.

A Coast Guard 17th District watchstander received a report from the Coast Guard Communications Station in Kodiak reporting that the Polar Wind, with five crewmembers aboard, ran aground and was taking on water 20 miles east of Cold Bay at the opening of Pavlof Bay.

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, deployed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman, arrived on scene at 2:14 a.m. Wednesday, and safely hoisted three of the five crewmembers from the 78-foot vessel and transported them to Cold Bay. The Dolphin helicopter crew left their Coast Guard rescue swimmer with the remaining two crewmembers and an Air Station HC-130 Hercules airplane remained overhead to monitor the situation. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew arrived on scene and hoisted the two remaining crewmembers and the rescue swimmer and transported them safely to Cold Bay.

The Polar Wind is reported to have approximately 18,500 gallons of fuel on board and the barge is reportedly carrying approximately 5,000 gallons of fuel and 90 refrigerated cargo containers.

The Coast Guard is working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the owner of the tug and barge, Northland Services, to respond to the situation. A unified command has been stood up to respond to the situation.

Northland Services has hired Global Diving and Salvage to develop a plan to salvage the tug and barge, and Alaska Chadux to respond to any pollution issues.

A Coast Guard Hercules airplane with a pollution responder aboard is scheduled to fly over the tug and barge Wednesday to assess the situation.

“The safe rescue of the crewmembers of the tug Polar Wind highlights the importance of our continual presence in the Bering Sea and the northern Pacific and the quick response capabilities of our ship and aircraft crews,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “However, our mission still continues. Now that the crew of the Polar Wind has been safely removed from vessel, we are shifting our focus to ensure that any potential pollution from the vessel is contained to protect the environment and marine life.”

The weather at the time of the grounding was 6 to 8-foot seas and 40 mph winds.

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