Coast Guard Rescues 7 Crewmembers from Cargo Vessel

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard helicopter crews hoisted seven crewmembers to safety in two separate missions Saturday and Sunday from the 220-foot Panamanian cargo vessel Capitan L, after the cargo ship began taking on water approximately 46 nautical miles south of Isla Saona, Dominican Republic.

The master of the Capitan L reported to controllers at Coast Guard Sector San Juan that his vessel had an engine room exhaust leak, was adrift and out of fuel. The vessel was bound for the Dominican Republic when it ran into trouble about 23 nautical miles south of Puerto Rico. The master advised the Coast Guard his crew would make the necessary repairs and bring the ship to the Dominican Republic.

Coast Guard Controllers established a communication schedule with the Capitan L to monitor their progress in conducting vessel repairs and to render any assistance. The crew of an Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, Coast Guard HH-65C Dolphin helicopter delivered needed food, water, a Datum Marker Buoy and a dewatering pump to assist the four Dominican, one Finnish and two Haitian crewmen.

The master of the Capitan L notified Coast Guard controllers at 2:18 p.m. Saturday that his Finnish chief engineer was suffering chest pains and had difficulty breathing. An HH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen was launched to medevac the chief engineer. Once on scene, the crew deployed their rescue swimmer aboard the Capitan L and hoisted the 61-year old man aboard the aircraft. The helicopter crew transported the patient to La Romana, Dominican Republic, where he was received and transported to a local hospital by awaiting EMS personnel for further medical assistance.

The master of the Capitan L called the Coast Guard Sunday to report his vessel was taking on water and listing 10 to 12 degrees. Coast Guard Cutter Cushing was immediately diverted and two Air Station Borinquen HH-65C Dolphin helicopters were launched to assist. Facing deteriorating weather conditions and the vessel’s lack of stability, the crews of the Dolphin helicopters each hoisted three Capitan L crewmen to safety aboard their aircraft and transported them to La Romana, Dominican Republic.

The crew of tug boat West Wind II found the Capitan L adrift Sunday evening and commenced towing the vessel back to the Dominican Republic.

“Constant monitoring of this distressed vessel’s progress paid off,” said Captain James E. Tunstall, Sector San Juan Commander. “These cases tend to go bad quickly and a disaster was truly avoided. The professionalism of our controllers allowed us to maintain constant communications with the master of the vessel. The heroic actions of our air station enabled us to deliver necessary food, water, emergency equipment and ultimately rescue the crewmen aboard the Capitan L.”

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