The last of four trapped South Korean sailors was pulled from the capsized cargo ship Golden Ray this morning, ending a nearly 35-hour drama that began on Sunday off the Atlantic coast of the southern United States.
In all, the US Coast Guard rescued 24 crew members from the ship, which overturned in the wee hours of Sunday morning after leaving the port of Brunswick in Georgia. Among the crew were 13 Filipino and 10 South Korean sailors as well as an American harbor pilot, according to the Associated Press.
.@USCG and rescue crews have extracted the final #GoldenRay crew member safely. All crew members are accounted for. Operations will now shift fully to environmental protection, removing the vessel and resuming commerce. #HappeningNow #BreakingNews #Breaking pic.twitter.com/YgEM6Eb2qO
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 9, 2019
“Best day of my 16-year career,” Lt. Lloyd Heflin, one of the coast guard rescuers, told AP in a text message. Heflin said this shortly after the last sailor, wearing only shorts, was extracted from the ship’s hull while responders cheered on. The man was the last to be rescued because he was stuck behind the glass of the ship’s engineering control room. The majority were extracted on Sunday.
According to CNN, the first 20 sailors, including the 13 Filipinos, were rescued between 4am and 5am (EST), after having successfully reached various exit points on the vessel.
A fire that broke out on board prevented rescuers from reaching the four South Koreans still trapped inside, Capt. John Reed, commander of the Coast Guard Sector Charleston, told the US-based news channel.
“As smoke and flames began to appear our crews, along with the Glynn County heavy rescue team, assessed that the situation was too risky to further go inside the vessel to attempt to locate the four individuals who remain missing at this time,” Reed said.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Golden Ray left port on Sunday at 1am bound for Baltimore, Maryland. Shortly thereafter, a fire was reported on board, and by 2am, emergency responders had been notified of the ship’s capsizing.
After the final crew member was rescued today, the Coast Guard tweeted: “Operations will now shift fully to environmental protection, removing the vessel and resuming commerce.”
The four South Korean sailors would often make tapping noises throughout their ordeal, which helped the coast guard determine their location in the ship. However, rescuers initially had a difficult time due to the ship’s instability, which was made worse when a fire broke out in the vessel, reported the Washington Post.
Built in 2017, the 656-foot Golden Ray was on its way to Baltimore and was carrying at least 4,000 vehicles when it tipped over, reported the BBC. It’s owned by the South Korean company Hyundai Glovis.
The National Transportation Safety Board has assigned investigators to determine the reason behind its sinking.
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