Coast Guard rescues 5 from tug aground near Sumner Strait, Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska — A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60T Jayhawk crew rescued five people aboard a tug that ran aground on the Mariposa Reef on the south side of Strait Island in Sumner Strait Thursday.

The aircrew hoisted the five people from a barge attached to the 102-foot tug Ocean Eagle and transported them to Sitka after the tug began taking on water Wednesday night.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Juneau received a report at 7:15 p.m., Wednesday, from the crew of the Ocean Eagle that the tug and barge ran aground on Mariposa Reef and began taking on water in the engine room. The crew of the Ocean Eagle reported the tug is carrying a total of 58,000 gallons of diesel fuel divided among several tanks. The barge is carrying mixed dry cargo and 52,000 gallons of diesel. Any discharge of product is unknown, and Sector Juneau is in consultation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for oil trajectory calculations.

The Ocean Eagle and barge refloated and drifted to Alvin Cove at approximately 3 a.m. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty arrived on scene to the Ocean Eagle at approximately 7:30 a.m. with pollution response equipment. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple arrived shortly thereafter. Both Coast Guard cutters remain on scene assessing the situation, looking for signs of pollution and verifying nearby aids to navigation. Commercial tugs contracted by the Ocean Eagle’s owner are on scene to dewater, effect repairs and mitigate potential pollution.

“The aircrew faced harsh weather conditions early Thursday morning when they saved five crew members off the barge,” said Cmdr. Gina Freeman, search and rescue mission coordinator for Sector Juneau. “Fortunately, there was no loss of life. Today, Coast Guard Sector Juneau and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation continue to work with the tug’s owner to remove the tug and barge and minimize any pollution to the environment.”

Weather on scene was 34-mph winds with 6-foot seas and 11.5 miles of visibility.

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