Good Samaritan saves two, starts tow of distressed vessel

HONOLULU — A Good Samaritan who responded to a fellow mariner’s distress call received some assistance from two U.S. Coast Guard vessels to make it back into port Monday.

The master of the 47-foot fishing vessel Da Opailolo II reported to the Coast Guard that he had suffered a casualty 12 miles south of Oahu on his way back into port after rescuing two mariners from an overturned 27-foot pleasure craft 40 miles south of Oahu. The master of Da Opailolo II had rescued two adults and taken the stricken vessel under tow.

In cases where mariners are not in urgent distress, the Coast Guard routinely asks for help from mariners already in the area. The Coast Guard will still launch an asset in many cases, but will first read an “urgent marine information broadcast,” or UMIB over VHF marine band channel 16. The radio call is an effort to see if a Good Samaritan vessel is closer than a Coast Guard asset.

The Coast Guard received a call for help Sunday from two people aboard the 27-foot pleasure craft My Escape. The two reported they were sinking 40 miles south of Oahu at 3:25 p.m.

Search and rescue coordinators in the Coast Guard’s 24-hour Honolulu Harbor command center immediately notified all mariners of the distress and asked for help via a UMIB. The master of Da Opailolo II answered back right away that he was only 30 minutes from the smaller vessel’s position and was en route to assist.

An air crew aboard an HH-65 Dolphin resuce helicopter from Air Station Barbers Point was also launched to assist.

“We work very closely with the entire maritime community,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jared Friedman-Torres, a search and rescue watch stander at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “It’s great to know there are mariners out there such as this Good Samaritan and that they’re willing to lend a helping hand. It increases our ability to respond to distress calls.”

Once the master of Da Opailolo II arrived on scene, he noticed two mariners clinging to the capsized hull of My Escape. The Good Samaritan took the two distressed people aboard Da Opailolo II and then took their capsized boat in tow with plans to return the partially submerged vessel back to Honolulu.

The master of Da Opailolo II also reported no threat from pollution from the smaller vessel’s fuel tanks and this was confirmed by an overflight by the crew of the HH-65 helicopter.

However, the master of Da Opailolo II called the Coast Guard for assistance at 7:30 a.m., Monday, after the tow line caught in his propeller while towing the smaller vessel.

“It was reported that the tow line became fouled in Da Opailolo II’s propeller 12 miles south of Oahu,” said Friedman-Torres, who diverted the crew of the Coast Guard 87-foot coastal patrol boat Ahi to assist from Honolulu Harbor.

Once on scene, the Ahi took Da Opailolo II in tow and the partially submerged vessel My Escape was abandoned 12 nautical miles south of Honolulu Harbor. The Ahi crew transferred the tow of Da Opailolo II to the crew of a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Honolulu and Da Opailolo II was returned to Kewalo Basin. There were no reports of any injuries.

The owner of the My Escape contracted with a local salvage company and is pursuing options to bring the vessel in. The Coast Guard will advise mariners in the area of the partially submerged vessel to exercise caution and urges all mariners to outfit their boat with a functioning marine-band radio.

The use of VHF marine band channel 16 is the most reliable way to communicate a distress to search and rescue personnel in the event of an emergency while on the water.

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