ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia—The last crew member trapped aboard a a South Korean cargo vessel that capsized off the Georgia coast has been rescued, the US Coast Guard said Monday.
Three crew members who were in the propeller shaft area of the Golden Ray cargo ship were rescued earlier Monday, the Coast Guard said. The final crew member had been trapped behind glass in an engineering control room, Coast Guard Capt. John Reed, the incident commander, told reporters.
Some of the initial 20 crew members who were rescued told CNN they didn’t know what happened. They were asleep when the ship started listing, they said.
The International Seafarers’ Center in Brunswick provided food and clothing to between 18 and 20 crew members, all of them Filipino and South Korean, center director Vicki West said in an email.
There were reportedly 13 Filipinos in the boat.
“They were in good condition,” West reported.
Volunteers also served lunch and helped those who wanted to attend Mass at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. The crew members received bags with hygiene items, socks, toothpaste and games, some of which were donated to the center by the community, West said. They also gave Bibles and promise books to the crew members.
“That is amazing. The best day of my career because you guys did that. Outstanding,” Reed said from the scene during the final rescue.
Speaking about the four crew members, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Phillip VanderWeit said: “The expressions on their faces said it all.”
Three crew members could walk on their own while another was taken from the scene in a rescue basket, VanderWeit said. The four have been transported to area hospitals.
The Coast Guard has been working since early Sunday to rescue the four South Korean crew members that were unable to get off the ship when it tipped onto its side in St. Simons Sound. The size of the 656-foot ship and the fact it has watertight doors, several compartments and no power complicated the rescue, Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton said.
A salvage team made contact Monday morning with the trapped crew members, VanderWeit said earlier in the day.
A team overnight heard tapping sounds from the propeller shaft area, he said. Rescuers were dropped off via helicopter and drilled a small hole in the ship to communicate with the crew members, VanderWeit said.
The first dispatches from the ship came at around 2 a.m. Sunday, VanderWeit said.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the ship began “listing heavily,” about 80 degrees, to the port side before overturning. Help arrived about two hours after the first call came in, VanderWeit said.
Twenty members of the crew were rescued around 4 and 5 a.m., VanderWeit said. They exited via various parts of the vessel, which posed a challenge in getting them off the ship.
Some crew members were hoisted onto helicopters while others were lowered—in some cases by fire hoses—onto boats, VanderWeit said.
Fires broke out on the ship, preventing rescuers from continuing their efforts to save the remaining four crew members, said Reed.
“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.
The Coast Guard remained on the scene, trying to stabilize the ship, and they continued to search the waters surrounding the vessel, VanderWeit said.
The ship, sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, was bound for Baltimore, where it was expected to arrive Monday, according to MarineTraffic.com. The Coast Guard told CNN the ship was carrying automobiles. (CNN)