Coast Guard Rescues 5 From Tug, Pollution Now A Concern

Five crewmembers from the Polar Wind were rescued after the tug and the barge it was towing went aground.

The Northland Services tug was 20 miles from Cold Bay when it became separated from the barge it was dragging behind it. The two vessels went adrift while the crew was trying to reconnect the towline. According to Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley, weather was a factor.

The Coast Guard received a distress call at around 9pm on Tuesday, and sent out two helicopters to respond to the situation. Mosley says that the rescue was made five hours later, and had to be completed in two rounds.

“The first helicopter that got on scene was one of our smaller helicopters that are based off our patrol cutters in the area,” says Mosley. “It was able — by leaving its rescue swimmer behind — to take three out of the five crew members. So, they got the first folks out, and then as they were going back toward Cold Bay the second helicopter was able to come in and retrieve our rescue swimmer as well as the remaining two crew members.”

The Coast Guard did not release the identities of the five persons rescued.

With the crew of the Polar Wind safe, the Coast Guard and the Department of Environmental Conservation are now working to reduce the impact to Alaska’s coastline. The tug and barge were carrying more than 23,000 gallons of diesel fuel at the time of the grounding along with smaller amounts of lube oil and other petroleum-based products. The barge was also carrying 90 refrigerated containers, 30 of which were in use. The contents of these containers have not been disclosed, as the Coast Guard is still waiting on a cargo manifest.

Northland Services has already hired a contractor to attempt the salvage of the two vessels, and they are also working with Alaska Chadux to minimize the spread of pollution. The Coast Guard is also conducting a flyover of the area today to determine the full impact of the accident.

agutierrez (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.209.1799 | About Alexandra

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