Arrow-right Camera


10 Rescued After Storm-Tossed Ship Sinks

Sat., Oct. 25, 1997

In a dramatic high-sea rescue carried out in storm-whipped darkness, searchers plucked 10 survivors and four bodies from the North Atlantic Thursday night and early Friday morning after a Norwegian container ship sank 450 nautical miles east of Newfoundland.

Military planes, coast guard vessels and commercial ships from several nations scoured the area most of Friday for one seaman still missing before giving up the search.

“One body was not found. The active search effort that has been under way since (Thursday) is now over,” searcher Dan Bedell said Friday afternoon from Canada’s Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax.

The MV Vanessa, registered in Bahama but belonging to a Norwegian company, started to sink Thursday afternoon, apparently after its cargo of chemical fertilizers shifted in the 25-foot seas.

Nine seamen were able to escape by life raft, but the remaining six were apparently washed overboard as waves pounded the badly listing vessel minutes before it sank. Those seamen wore only flotation jackets, not insulated life suits, and rescuers said it would be unlikely anyone could survive more than 17 hours without thermal protection, even in waters kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream.

One semiconscious survivor was located in the swell Friday clinging to a dead shipmate.

The seamen, living and dead, were retrieved by the Canadian patrol vessel Cape Roger, the first coast guard ship at the scene. “He was clinging to his buddy. I don’t think he realized that his buddy was dead,” said Bedell, part of the rescue force. “There was another body floating nearby.”

Medical technicians parachuted into the water from search airplanes and were picked up by the Cape Roger so they could provide emergency treatment to the surviving seaman, who was suffering from severe hypothermia.

Thursday night, as the vessel steamed at full speed for St. John’s, Newfoundland, the nearest port, the seaman was reported close to death.

The nine survivors in the life raft were the first rescued, pulled from the sea by the container ship Summer Wind, one of six civilian freighters that converged for the international rescue effort.

Click here to comment on this story »