The Coast Guard and crew of two good Samaritan vessels rescued 13 people from a sinking commercial fishing vessel early Friday morning, approximately 63 miles southeast of Chincoteague.
Watchstanders with Coast Guard Sector Virginia received a mayday call at approximately 2 a.m. from the 115-foot commercial fishing vessel, Tremont, stating they were involved in a collision with the 1,000-foot Panamanian-flagged container vessel, MSC Rita. The Tremont crew also reported they were sinking with 13 people aboard and abandoning the vessel.
The watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast and directed the launch of two aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina: an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a long range HC-130 Hercules aircraft. Coast Guard Station Chincoteague launched its 47-foot motor lifeboat, and the Coast Guard cutter Rollin Fritch was also diverted to assist.
Meanwhile other vessels arrived on scene to help the Tremont crew: the research vessel Atlantis, operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute at Falmouth, Mass., and the motor vessel Drystan. The Atlantis crew launched their small auxiliary boat to transfer 12 Tremont crewmembers to the Drystan. The Coast Guard helicopter crew then hoisted the captain of the Tremont off the sinking vessel.
"Safety of life at sea is the Coast Guard's top priority," said Capt. Jennifer Stockwell, commander of Coast Guard Sector Virginia, in an account of the rescue operation. "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 demonstrates a selfless commitment to others."
The Tremont crewmembers were transferred from the Drystan to the Chincoteague Coast Guard station’s motor lifeboat and taken ashore at Chincoteague. The Tremont captain was taken to the Virginia sector; no injuries were reported among any of the crew.
The Coast Guard says the cause of the collision is being investigated. The MSC Rita was enroute from New York to Charleston, S.C. at the time of the collision according to MarineTraffic.com