Coast Guard coordinates rescue approximately 750 miles southeast of Bermuda

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Watchstanders at the Coast Guard 5th District command center, here, coordinated a rescue approximately 750 miles southeast of Bermuda Saturday.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., the watchstanders received an HF radio Digital Selective Calling distress alert from a crewmember aboard the Maersk Bitan, a 675–foot freight ship, stating that a crewmember was missing and believed overboard.

The watchstanders called the Maersk Bitan and gathered as much information as they could from the crew.

“We asked, when was the person last seen, where the ship was at that time, when did the crew notice the man was missing and where the ship was when they knew they had a man overboard,” said Chief Petty Officer Heath Blanton, a watchstander with the Coast Guard 5th District command center. “Once those facts were gathered, we began the search planning using the Search And Rescue Optimal Planning System simulation model to track where the currents would drift a person based on all the environmental factors.”

The watchstanders sent out an enhanced group call then using AMVER, the Automated mutual-assistance vessel rescue system, they asked the captains of the Summer Flower, and the Phoenix Beauty to assist the crew of the Maersk Bitan with the search.

A crew aboard an HC-130 Hercules from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City in Elizabeth City N.C. was launched to aid in the search.

Before arriving on scene, a crewmember aboard the Maersk Bitan contacted the command center at approximately 3 p.m. and reported they had located the man treading water in the search area supplied by the Coast Guard watchstanders.

“This was the culmination of excellent coordination and planning by the D5 Command Center and the two motor vessels that volunteered to divert and search for a mariner lost at sea,” said Brian Neilan, a watchstander with the Coast Guard 5th District Command Center. “This was a great success story, and the odds were not in favor of a good outcome.”

Based on the information passed by the ship’s captain, the man had been in the water for approximately 10 hours prior to his recovery.

“The search area covered 750 square nautical miles,” said Lt. j.g. Brendan Salerno a watchstander with the Coast Guard 5th District Command Center. “We are extremely pleased with the outcome and appreciate the search effort by all involved. This is a rare outcome based on the distance offshore and the amount of time between falling overboard and the ship realizing a crew member was missing.”

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