Coast Guard rescue highlights the importance of vessel safety equipment

SAN FRANCISCO — The rescue of two crewmembers from the sunken fishing vessel Della C on Saturday off of Pt Ano Nuevo, Calif, was largely a result of the required safety equipment maintained on board.

The DELLA C, homeported in Moss Landing, had a valid Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety decal issued on October 22, 2007. This means the vessel participated in a voluntary dockside examination program and as a result, had proper safety equipment on board allowing the vessel to operate out to 20 nautical miles from shore. Additionally, the vessel was boarded while underway by a Coast Guard Patrol boat in December. During this boarding records noted on the vessel indicated that the operator had received special training for conducting emergency drills aboard commercial fishing vessels and that the crew had conducted the required safety drills.

Two key pieces of the safety gear, the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, commonly referred to as an EPIRB, and the liferaft, self-deployed as they were designed to when the vessel sank. The EPIRB sent a signal which was received by the Coast Guard indicating the vessel was in distress along with an approximate location. The liferaft self deployed and inflated. It had a canopy to provide shelter for the survivors until help arrived. Since the vessel capsized and sank so suddenly it appears the crew members were not able to reach and don their immersion suits.

Unfortunately, the captain lost his life in this case. The search was suspended after Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, Air Station San Francisco and Coast Guard Station Monterey searched throughout the night and again at first light on Sunday morning. The fishermen were not wearing lifejackets at the time of the incident. The Coast Guard urges boaters to maintain all required safety equipment onboard their vessels, and to wear lifejackets particularly in heavy seas or during critical on deck evolutions or keep them readily accessible in the event of a sudden emergency. Communication equipment, including a marine VHF radio and a 406 MHz EPRIB increases the chances of an early, accurate MAYDAY or distress signal and successful rescue.

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