January 31st 2017

Six people who had been thrown into the freezing water when their small boat struck an underwater reef received much needed help from the officers and crew of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) Ferry AURORA.

The accident took place on Dec. 29 in Chatham Strait in southeast Alaska.

The MV AURORA was at Tenakee Inlet, not far from the scene of the accident, when the call for help went out.

AURORA Relief Master Lou Boone and the crew changed course to respond to the emergency.

The other MM&P licensed deck officers aboard AURORA at the time were Chief Mate Shane Opp and Second Mate Jim Callison.

As the ferry traveled to the scene, the crew prepared to launch a fast rescue boat and a lifeboat equipped with the necessary equipment and supplies.

Several smaller vessels and a Coast Guard helicopter with a rescue swimmer were already on the scene when the AURORA arrived to receive five cold and bruised survivors. The sixth person was airlifted to a hospital.

“In true Alaska fashion, the rescue and assistance were a team effort involving several private fishing vessels, the crew of a tug, the USCG and an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry,” Boone said.

“Remarkably, the rescue functioned flawlessly. It was like something you’d read in a textbook.”

“We had medical personnel, a medical facility on board, food and blankets, rescue vessels, a stable platform in the event the situation were to escalate or deteriorate, and we had well-trained maritime personnel at the ready at any given moment,” he said.

“Although other vessels were on the scene, the ships in the AMHS fleet have somewhat of a sanctuary to offer in the harsh climate and cold waters of an Alaskan winter. When tragedy strikes, a ship of Alaska’s unique marine highway can be the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen.”

The licensed deck officers who operate the ferries in the Alaska Marine Highway System are represented by the MM&P Pacific Maritime Region.