Coast Guard: Overturned cargo ship’s missing crew members are alive

Author: CBS News Writer: Derrick Shaw
Coast Guard crews and port partners respond to an overturned cargo vessel with a fire on board Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in St. Simons Sound, Ga. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday rescuers drilled through the hull of an overturned cargo ship off the coast of Georgia and made contact with four missing crew members stuck inside. Lieutenant Lloyd Heflin told The Associated Press that the contact came Monday morning after rescuers rappelled down the side of the ship.”The early indication is they are on board and OK,” Heflin said. He said the initial rescue team has faced a language barrier in communicating with the South Korean crew members.

Heflin said rescuers were trying to figure out the safest way of getting them out. The Golden Ray flipped onto its side and caught fire Sunday as it left the Port of Brunswick with more than 4,000 vehicles inside.

20 safely rescued on Sunday

Coast Guard Captain John Reed had said 20 were safely evacuated from the ship before rescuers determined the smoke and flames and unstable cargo made it too risky to venture further inside. The 656-foot vehicle carrier was stuck in St. Simons Sound, its hull exposed and its deck empty, in view of beachgoers on the shoreline.

Onshore, crowds gathered to watch the Coast Guard operation. “To see it on its side, it was just so big, so surprising, and there’s just a huge crowd down here,” a woman told CBS affiliate WJAX-TV.

Capsizing’s cause under investigation

The Coast Guard said it was notified of the capsized vessel by a 911 call at about 2 a.m. Sunday. The cause remains under investigation.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson had said it wasn’t clear if weather conditions caused the ship to lurch. Hurricane Dorian was already well beyond the Georgia coast, where it blew past last week before being downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.

The Coast Guard said the overturned ship hasn’t released any pollutants so far, but mitigation responses are ready in case they’re needed. The Golden Ray is flagged out of the Marshall Islands and was headed to Baltimore, according to the website

The ship’s registered owner is Hyundai Glovis, a South Korean company. The Port of Brunswick, one of the busiest U.S. seaports for shipping automobiles, was closed to vessel traffic, with an established emergency safety zone in St. Simons Sound.

Vessels were not authorized within a half mile of the Golden Ray. Nearly 614,000 vehicles and heavy machinery units moved across its docks in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Georgia Ports Authority.

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