In a joint effort between the Coast Guard and the crew of the 750-foot motor vessel, Forestal Diamante, seven mariners have been rescued after they were forced to abandon ship at approximately 11 p.m. Wednesday due to a shipboard fire 316 miles northeast of Johnston Island, an unincorporated territory of the United States in the Pacific.
The Coast Guard received distress alerts from two Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and initiated a search Thursday morning. Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu initially received an unknown Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon with an unspecific location to the distress. Two hours later watchstanders received another alert that belonged to a NOAA observer, who was based out of Honolulu. After gathering his information, JRCC watchstanders learned he was aboard the 72-foot fishing vessel, Golden Eagle II, which is also home ported in Honolulu.
An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point was launched at 8 a.m. The Hercules arrived on scene at approximately 10:30 a.m. to find the Golden Eagle II listing and a life raft floating nearby. Coast Guard watchstanders contacted the crew of the 750-foot motor vessel, Forestal Diamante, which was 60 miles from the Golden Eagle II under the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue Program. Forestal Diamante arrived on scene at approximately 11:15 a.m. and rescued all seven crew form the Golden Eagle II.
All members of the crew are reported in good condition with no injuries. They will remain aboard the Forestal Diamante which is heading to Japan, but will try to take the crew to Guam en-route. Golden Eagle II remains adrift.
Although the Coast Guard reports that the seamen in this story were not injured, this provides an example of where, if the seamen had been injured, they would likely be entitled to recovery against the vessel. Depending on the circumstances, injury may include physical and/or emotional injury. Seamen that suffer physical or emotional distress due to being placed in a harrowing situation like this due to the vessel’s negligence generally are entitled to recover damages from the vessel owner. A vessel owner has a duty to provide a vessel that is fit for its intended use, and a vessel that catches fire causing the crew to have to abandon ship is usually not fit for its intended use. Under such circumstances, seamen may recover for any damages resulting from the vessel’s unseaworthiness or negligence.