23 Crewmen Aboard Liberian Tanker Medevaced, 12 Remain with Ship

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Emergency Response Agencies combined efforts to medevac 23 crewmembers Thursday who suffered from food poisoning, while transiting aboard the Liberian 580-foot chemical tanker Stolt Sapphire in waters approximately 57 nautical miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The 35-man crew of the Stolt Sapphire consisted of 27 Filipino, four Latvian, two Chinese, one Polish and one Ukrainian nationals, who were transporting chemical cargo from St. Eustatius, Netherland Antilles to Houston, Texas at the time of the incident. A vessel’s crewman reported that all 23 crewmembers were suffering from food poisoning after eating barracuda Wednesday night.

Coast Guard controllers received initial notification from the crew of the chemical tanker at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday and launched an Air Station Borinquen HH-65 Dolphin helicopter to rendezvous with the Stolt Sapphire offshore. The helicopter crew arrived on scene with the Stolt Sapphire at approximately 3:28 p.m. Thursday and deployed a health services specialist onboard the tanker vessel who determined that five passengers, including the vessel’s Captain, required to be medevaced to receive medical care ashore.

The helicopter crew utilized their rescue basket to initially hoist and medevac three of the crewmembers ashore, and then returned to the vessel to medevac the remaining two crewmembers. All five vessel crewmembers where transported to the Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action Air Station in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The patients were transferred to awaiting Emergency Medical Services personnel and then transported to the Pila Hospital in Ponce to receive further medical care.

The Stolt Sapphire received a harbor pilot onboard prior to entering the Ponce Harbor under the escort of two tug boats and anchoring the vessel in the harbor’s anchorage area. Coast Guard controllers coordinated with Puerto Rico Department of Health medical personnel who deployed onboard the vessel and removed 18 additional crewmembers from the vessel who were transferred to local hospitals in Ponce. The 12 crewmembers with no signs of illness remained on board the vessel.

The Stolt Sapphire will remain anchored at the Ponce Harbor until arrangements are made by the vessel’s agent and owners to man the vessel with a fully qualified crew.

Coast Guard and Puerto Rico emergency response agencies effectively came together during this response and helped 23 mariners who where at sea in need of assistance,” said Lt. Juan Herandez, Sector San Juan Command Duty Officer.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel and Puerto Rico State Emergency Management Agency personnel also responded to the scene and where involved in coordinating part of the interagency response.

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