Coast Guard rescues three fishermen after boat catches fire

USCG file photo

CHATHAM, Mass. – A Coast Guard boat crew rescued three fishermen after their boat caught fire approximately 17 miles east of Chatham, Mass., Tues., Oct. 26, 2010.

A fisherman aboard the 48-foot fishing vessel, Joanne H, issued a Mayday call around 5:45 a.m., saying “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, this is Joanne H. We’re on fire. My position is…” before the transmission was lost.

Coast Guard Sector Southeastern personnel used the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and Rescue 21 to obtain the vessel’s last known position.

A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod and a 42-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Chatham responded.

When the Coast Guard crews arrived, the Harwich, Mass.-based boat was completely engulfed in flames.

The three-person crew abandoned the boat and was in a life rafting awaiting the rescue crews. After seeing a red flare launched by the fishermen, the Chatham boat crew located the life raft and rescued all three fishermen.

The boat crew transported the trio to the station where they were met by EMS.

There were no reports of injury.

A 42-foot boat crew from Station Chatham remained on scene monitoring the vessel until it completely sank outside of the shipping lane in about 300 feet of water. There are no reports of pollution or debris in the area. The boat is not considered to be a hazard to navigation.

VMS uses electronic transmitters placed on fishing vessels to transmit information about the vessel’s position to the Coast Guard via satellite. This allows crews on land monitoring such transmissions to determine a vessel’s position.

“VMS is generally used for enforcement purposes, such as seeing if a vessel is in a closed area and shouldn’t be,” said Scott Backholm, the search and rescue controller at Sector Southeastern New England. “However, in this case, in combination with Rescue 21, it was an effective tool we were able to use to determine where the burning vessel might be and save the entire crew.”

Rescue 21 is the Coast Guard’s advanced command, control and communications system created to improve the ability to assist mariners in distress and save lives and property at sea. The program incorporates direction-finding equipment to provide the Coast Guard with a line of bearing that can be used to located mariners.

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