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Cougar Ace's initial survey complete; life of naval architect lost in accident

July 31, 2006

A four-man salvage team was able to access and survey the Cougar Ace yesterday, determining that at least some cargo remains in place and that the vessel remains stable. However, while conducting the survey, one of the team members fell and died from injuries sustained in the fall. 

The team attempted to board the vessel from the Makushin Bay but were unable to climb up the structure. They successfully accessed the vessel using the Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau's HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. The salvage team commenced a survey of the vessel's engine room and some of the cargo decks. After the survey was completed and the team was disembarking the Cougar Ace an unidentified member of the team, a naval architect, slipped and fell. He was knocked unconscious. The other team members conducted CPR on the scene. He was immediately medevaced to the Morgenthau. After conducting CPR for over an hour, he was pronounced dead by the Coast Guard flight surgeon. A safety assessment is underway.  

The survey team from Titan salvage attempts to access the vessel from the Makushin Bay. Initially they were not able to gain entry; however, successful access was gained by airlifting the team with the Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau's embarked HH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
Unified Command Photo

The Cougar Ace left Japan on July 22, with 23 people on board. A Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter and crew from Air Station Kodiak, working with two Air National Guard Pavehawk helicopters with rescue crews from Kulis Air National Guard Base, sucessfully hoisted the twenty three crewmembers of the Cougar Ace to safety last Monday night, July 24th.

The Cougar Ace, a Singapore homeported vessel, carrying 4,813 vehicles was en-route to Vancouver B.C. when it began taking on water and listing at 90 degrees 230 miles south of the Aleutian Islands on Sunday, July 23rd.The Singapore flagged vessel, a 654 foot car carrier, is owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. The amount of fuel on board has been confirmed as 142,184 gallons of Intermediate Fuel Oil (IFO) 380 and 34,182 gallons of marine diesel. Previously reported amounts were the amount of fuel taken on before departing Asia.

According to the Unified Command, the initial salvage survey was successful. The team looked at the number one and nine decks. The team determined that the cargo on the number one deck, the highest deck, remains in place. Cargo on the ninth deck has also remained in place. The engine room is intact and there is no sign of water. There are a total of fourteen car cargo decks on the Cougar Ace.

The Cougar Ace was at last report 140 nautical miles south of Amlia Island in the Aleutian Island chain. It has been adrift since approximately 1 a.m. Monday. The vessel is being pushed by the wind at about one knot. Since about 4 p.m. Wednesday the vessel was on a mostly northern route. Friday it took a east course. It is still on that course. 

The 378-foot Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau is on scene monitoring the Cougar Ace for signs of pollution and tracking its movement. A non -recoverable sheen has been noted emanating from the bow section of the vessel in the vicinity of the bow propulsion system. The sheen extends approximately 25-75 yards.

Five other vessels are being used to respond to the Cougar Ace. The tug Sea Victory is expected to arrive on scene late today from Seattle. The Coast Guard cutter Sycamore, a 225-foot sea going buoy tender from Cordova, has arrived on scene. 

The Unified Command is continuing to develop plans to right the vessel and safely tow it. No determination has been made as to where the vessel will be towed. Weather conditions on scene Monday are reported as seven knot winds from the southwest. Sea state is one foot seas and swells. Conditions are overcast with eight nautical miles of visibility.

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Ketchikan, Alaska