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Search efforts continue for missing crew

Freighter keeled over in waters off Georgia, 4 Koreans still trapped

Sept 10,2019
Efforts were underway Monday to rescue four Korean crewmen who remained missing after a Hyundai-owned cargo vessel, the Golden Ray, flipped over Sunday off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Golden Ray freighter, operated by Hyundai Glovis, the logistics affiliate of Hyundai Motor, listed to its port side around 2 a.m. Sunday near the Port of Brunswick.

According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs Monday, out of a total of 24 people aboard the vessel, 20 have been rescued. Of those rescued, there were six Korean and 13 Filipino crewmen and the American captain.

The 71,178-ton vessel, transporting vehicles, tilted portside at an angle of 80 degrees in waters 12.6 kilometers (7.8 miles) off the Port of Brunswick, according to the ministry. As of Monday afternoon, the vessel was titled 90 degrees.

The four missing crewmen were suspected to be trapped inside the engine room of the ship. The Foreign Ministry confirmed that there had been a response from within the vessel.

A fire was initially observed from the starboard side of the vessel before it keeled over in St. Simons Sound, confirmed U.S. Coast Guard officials in a press briefing Sunday. They said they have been conducting rescue operations for the missing crewmen since then.

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed MH-65 Dolphin helicopters to evacuate and lift crewmen to safety over several hours after the incident was reported to authorities.

But the Coast Guard determined it was too risky to enter the vessel to immediately continue rescue operations for the remaining four crewmen because of smoke and flames. They planned to resume operations under more stable conditions.

Capt. John Reed, a commander of the Charleston Coast Guard, said in a press briefing Sunday that the fire was observed “coming off of the starboard side” and “looked to be about the area of the cargo and it was black smoke.” He added that since then, the “flames have gone out and the black smoke has ceased.”

The U.S. Coast Guard’s search and rescue team said that they have detected signs that some of the missing crewmen were alive, reported the Brunswick News Sunday. Justin Irwin, a commander of the Coast Guard Station Brunswick, said there was tapping inside the vessel, and the rescue personnel tapped back to let them know they were not forgotten.

The exact cause of the accident has yet to be confirmed, and the Coast Guard is launching an investigation into the case. The Port of Brunswick was closed during the rescue and recovery efforts.

The Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday afternoon that the Coast Guard has confirmed that the fire and flames have ceased and that two tug boats have been dispatched to make sure that the Golden Ray doesn’t drift away. It added that rescue operations were set to resume later that day.

The Foreign Ministry, as soon as it became aware of the accident Sunday, coordinated with related agencies including the Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries to monitor the situation for the speedy rescue of the missing crewmen.

Officials from related branches including the Korean Coast Guard convened a meeting Monday morning at the Foreign Ministry building in central Seoul to discuss the dispatch of a rapid response team and other follow-up measures.

The ministry said it will continue to provide consular support and back rescue efforts and support for the family members of the trapped crew members and investigate the cause of the accident.

The U.S. Coast Guard also dispatched its damage assessment team from its Atlantic Strike Team to assess the situation.

The two-year-old Golden Ray, a pure car carrier, has the capacity to transport over 7,000 vehicles. It was reportedly transporting 4,000 cars.

Korea saw another serious maritime accident earlier this year when a sightseeing ferry tragically sank on the Danube River in Hungary in late May, killing 25 tourists and leaving one still missing.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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