Coast Guard Rescues 13 After Fishing Boat Collides With Container Ship Off Virginia

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Liza Mizelle/Getty Images)

The U.S. Coast Guard worked with several good samaritans last week to save 13 people, including one child, after a boat collided with a massive container ship off Virginia.

A 115-foot commercial fishing vessel named the Tremont struck the 1,000-foot tanker named MSC Rita around 2 am on Friday, Oct. 28. And the smaller of the two immediately began to sink, according to officials.

The Tremont crew sent a mayday along with its location, which was approximately 63 miles southeast of the offshore island Chincoteague. In the call, the crew said they were being forced to abandon the ship because it was taking on water and quickly dropping into the Atlantic Ocean.

Watchstanders with the Coast Guard Sector Virginia heard the mayday along with a 274-foot Massachusetts-based research vessel called the Atlantis. The captain of the Atlantis contacted the USCG to say that he was only eight miles from the accident. And he was on his way to help.

The USCG launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from its air station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to meet the Atlantis. It also sent a motor lifeboat crew from a station in Chincoteague and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Rollin Fritch. When they got there, a motor vessel named Drystan was also on the scene.

Coast Guard and Good Samaritan Crews Saved All Passengers Aboard Sinking Ship

The Atlantis sent a small rescue buoy to collect 12 passengers and ferry them to the Drystan. At the same time, the Coast Guard helicopter crew airlifted the Tremont captain from his sinking ship.

“Moments later, according to witnesses, the Tremont sank,” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a nonprofit organization that runs the Atlantic, wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

The Atlantis was nearby for a three-week mission that sent divers to collect data on seeps of methane gas from the ocean floor, according to the email.

Luckily, the quick collaboration saved everyone’s life, and not a single person was injured during the accident.

“Safety of life at sea is the Coast Guard’s top priority,” Capt. Jennifer Stockwell, commander of Sector Virginia, said. “These are the life-saving missions for which we train each and every day. While this morning’s events were unfortunate, 13 people were rescued from an extremely perilous situation. The combined efforts of Good Samaritans and Coast Guard response assets demonstrate a selfless commitment to others.”

Stockwell declined to give any further details as officials are currently investigating the cause of the accident.