EPIRB Alerts the Coast Guard To Distressed Sailors

Monday, May 20, 2002
A registered Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) led to the rescue of five British citizens Sunday from a demasted sailing vessel 340 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. Paul Huber, 36, of Croston, England, Thomas A.L. Olsen, 26, of Jersey, England, Fiona I.G. Irwin, 36, and her children, ages nine and 12, all of Liverpool, England, were on a trip from Palm Beach, Fla., to England when their 50-foot sailing vessel Free, lost its mast. The cause of the calamity is unknown. This is the second rescue in five days that involved a 406 EPIRB alerting the Coast Guard to a distress. The Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center (RCC), Portsmouth, Va., coordinated a very similar rescue May 16, which also involved an EPIRB alert from a 50-ft. demasted sailing vessel 400 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Simply put, eight lives have been saved in the last five days because of EPIRBS,” said Lt. Russ Medeiros, a search and rescue controller at the RCC. “When activated, EPIRBs tell us the position of the vessel in distress. In both cases, today and last Thursday, the EPIRB was the vessels' only way to contact us.” The RCC received the EPIRB alert from the Free at 11:30 a.m. Sunday and diverted the motor vessel Fassa, a 534-foot Maltese-flagged merchant ship and member of the Coast Guard’s Automated Mutual Assistance VEssel Rescue (AMVER) program, and a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., to investigate. Upon arriving in the vicinity around 7:30 p.m., the Fassa was able to position itself alongside the Free in the 8- to 10-foot seas and safely transfer all five people. None of the sailors required medical attention. All five will stay on board the Fassa until its arrival to England, which is estimated to take 6 to 8 days.

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