The crew of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District Survey Vessel LINTHICUM assisted the U.S. Coast Guard in the rescue of a distressed small private vessel taking on water roughly five miles off Virginia Beach Sunday morning.
The crew was conducting a routine condition survey of Cape Henry Channel in the Chesapeake Bay, part of the Baltimore Harbor and Channels project, when a passing cargo vessel notified them they had just seen a flare in the area.
The crew immediately set a course for the flare and soon came across a disabled 32-foot small craft with malfunctioning electronic equipment and taking on water. The crew aboard LINTHICUM kicked into action to provide assistance.
“We train for it,” said Ryan Schuman, LINTHICUM boat operator. “Not only do we train for ourselves, in case we’re taking on water or someone who is overboard, but since we’re out here we have a really great chance of coming across somebody in distress so we train for that too and we responded.”
First, LINTHICUM ensured the disabled vessel was out of harm’s way.
“When we came upon it, it was in the dead center of Cape Henry Channel,” Schuman said. And there was an inbound cargo vessel, the one that originally notified LINTHICUM of the flare in fact.
“The wind and tide were in our favor, and we drifted with them out of the channel,” Schuman said. “And I had made contact with the pilot of cargo vessel to make sure we weren’t going to get run over before that.”
Once that potential threat was averted, the crew of the LINTHICUM made contact with the small boat and conveyed their details to the Coast Guard.
“We relayed GPS coordinates, number of persons on board, and vessel status to the Coast Guard,” Schuman said. “Within 15 minutes rescue boats and a Coast Guard helicopter arrived.”
The Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, Virginia ― who had already mobilized rescue operations after hearing of distressed a vessel at only a general location ― responded with a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew from Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Virginia; and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Using the information provided by the crew of the LINTHICUM, Coast Guard personnel, along with Virginia Beach Fire Department and Virginia Marine Police, quickly arrived on the scene to rescue the boaters and tow their vessel to a nearby marina.
“The support of local agencies is great,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Castellow, the coxswain of the RBM crew. “In this case, the Army Corps of Engineers helped us by relaying the vessel’s position to us when the vessel’s electronics went out. Because of them, we didn’t have to search at all - we just went straight to the vessel.”
Schuman noted that had rescue vessels not arrived as quickly as they had, LINTHICUM’s crew stood ready to take the boaters from the distressed vessel aboard had their situation worsened to the point where that would have been necessary.
Schuman and the crew of the LINTHICUM were humble about their role in Sunday’s rescue.
“It feels good, but we were just doing our job, anybody would do it,” Schuman said. “Mariners look out for one another out here.”
After the Coast Guard and other emergency personnel arrived, the 45-foot Survey Vessel LINTHICUM and her crew of three, including Schuman, the boat operator; Jeff Tuer, the assistant boat operator; and Greg Witmyer, survey technician, went back to their mission of surveying Cape Henry Channel… resuming one of the more traditional ways the Corps of Engineers helps ensure safe navigation.