Final four men rescued from overturned shipAll four Korean crew members trapped inside the Hyundai-owned Golden Ray cargo ship that overturned off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia were safely rescued Monday following tenuous salvage efforts by the Coast Guard.
The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday confirmed that the four crew members were rescued by 6 p.m. Monday local time and were “in relatively good condition.”
All 24 people on board the vehicle carrier - 10 Koreans, 13 Filipinos and the American captain - have now been rescued. The U.S. Coast Guard conducted over 30 hours of grueling rescue operations which began after authorities received a distress call from the ship around 2 a.m. Sunday.
The Marshall Islands-flagged Golden Ray, operated by Hyundai Glovis, the logistics affiliate of Hyundai Motor, listed to its port side early Sunday some 12.6 kilometers (7.8 miles) from the Port of Brunswick.
The 71,178-ton vessel, transporting around 4,000 vehicles, had been heading to Baltimore when it listed and keeled over in St. Simons Sound shortly after departing from the port where it had unloaded and reloaded cargo.
On Sunday, 20 crew members including the captain were rescued by the Coast Guard. However, rescue operations were temporarily halted for safety reasons due to smoke and flames coming from within the vessel.
The ship, tilted at a 90 degree angle, was secured by two tugboats so that it did not overturn any further or drift away.
Salvage workers later confirmed that there were crew alive inside the vessel, and they communicated with each other through tapping signals in regular intervals, boosting morale on both sides.
The Coast Guard resumed rescue operations Monday morning, local time, assessing the vessel’s hull and finding a safe way to extract the men trapped inside, deploying its MH-65 Dolphin helicopters and USCG Cutter Heron patrol vessel, as well as various response teams.
Coast Guard personnel were able to rescue three of the men from the vessel at around 3 p.m. after making a man-size hole on the side of the ship to extract them from the engine room.
The last man was rescued at around 5:50 p.m. because he had been trapped behind a glass partition in the engineering control room in the vessel’s stern.
A video clip of the final crew member’s rescue shared by the Coast Guard on Twitter shows the rescue workers and Coast Guard officials on scene cheering as the man is extracted from the vessel. The rescued man was able to climb out on his own and waved and thanked his rescuers.
Capt. John Reed, the Coast Guard commander on the scene, was heard saying this was the “best day of my career, because you guys did that,” as he thanked the rescue workers.
The four rescued crew were immediately transferred to local hospitals.
The Coast Guard plans to work on environmental protection operations and also removing the vessel. It is still investigating why the vessel keeled over.
The Korean Foreign Ministry and the consulate general in Atlanta said it will cooperate with the Coast Guard and related agencies to support the rescued crew and their family members, and to find out the reason for the accident and assist with the ship’s recovery efforts.
The Foreign Ministry on Monday dispatched an eight-member rapid response to the site, and families of the rescued crew were expected to arrive in the United States on Tuesday.
Korean President Moon Jae-in sent thank you letters to the U.S. President Donald Trump and the Coast Guard for their efforts to save the crew members, according to the Blue House Tuesday. Trump earlier retweeted the Coast Guard’s announcement of the successful rescue and wrote: “Great job!”
The Golden Ray, nearly 200 meters in length and 35 meters wide, was built in 2017 and has the capacity to carry over 7,000 vehicles.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]