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Search for Missing Freighter Crewmen Continues


December 10, 2004

The Coast Guard continues searching for six missing crewmembers from the 738-foot Malaysian-flagged freighter Selendang Ayu who were lost when a Jayhawk rescue helicopter crashed Wednesday night.

The motor vessel Selendang Ayu, a 738-foot freighter ran aground and broke in two on the northern shore of Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Island Chain. A Coast Guard cutter and three tug boats were unable to halt the motor vessel Selendang Ayu's approach to the northern shore of Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Island chain Tuesday night. The Selendang Ayu began drifting toward Unalaska Island after the ship's main engine ceased operating. The Selendang Ayu ran aground more than 40-hours after the ship's main engine broke down causing it to drift in high winds and heavy seas. The Coast Guard has rescued 20 of the Selendang Ayu's 26 crewmen.

jpg wreckage of jayhawk

The wreckage of an Air Station Kodiak Jayhawk helicopter that crashed Wednesday night while rescuing crewmen from the 738-foot  vessel Selendang Ayu remains in the surf near Skan Bay by Unalaska Island after teams located the aircraft.
Official U.S. Coast Guard photo...

Ten people were on board the USCG Jayhawk rescue helicopter when it crashed. A second Coast Guard helicopter rescue crew safely recovered the wrecked helicopter's crew and one man from the freighter. Six Selendang Auy crewmen remain missing. Officials say the twisted wreckage of the helicopter washed up on Skan Bay, but there was no sign of the six missing crewmembers despite extensive search efforts throughout the day Thursday.

The Coast Guard plans to continue the search by air at first light Friday using helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft to the scene to relieve the Kodiak based AH from command and control. The CGC Sherman, a 378 foot high endurance cutter from Alameda, CA is headed to the scene. The Coast Guard said the cause of the helicopter crash was still unknown.

The freighter belongs to Singapore-based IMC Group. IMC crew manager Loh C.W. Weng said the missing were Indian citizens Z.M. Vaz, age 46; Blaise M. Mascarenhas, 33; Narendra S. Yadav, 52; Durg V. Singh, 54; and Didlar Singh, 44. Carlos Flores Santiago, 45, is the missing crew member from the Philippines. The Selendang Ayu was transporting a shipment of soy beans from Tacoma, WA to a port in China.

On scene is the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley which is home-ported in Kodiak, Alaska.  The cutters Sherman, from Alameda, Calif., and the Sycamore, from Cordova, Alaska, are headed toward the scene to assist.  Jayhawk rescue helicopters and C-130 fixed-wing airplanes are both scheduled to conduct first light searches Friday for the six missing men.

jpg aerial view of Selendang Ayu

An aerial view of the Selendang Ayu during an Incident Command System overflight to search for possible spilled oil shows where the 738-foot vessel broke in two. 
Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Officials said over flights of the Selendang Ayu, which broke in two Wednesday, revealed an oily sheen surrounding the vessel, and some oil had reached landfall.  A vessel is being outfitted and mobilized to do free-oil recovery inside Skan Bay Friday.  Attempts to reach the area proved unsuccessful due to the weather and limited daylight.

The Unified Command (UC) is identifying and prioritizing environmentally sensitive areas, primarily three salmon streams and two lakes threatened by oil. Some oiled wildlife has been spotted. Officials reported the motor vessel Selendang Ayu was carrying about 500,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil (Bunker C).

According to officials, the Cordova based cutter Sycamore was deployed to also assist at the scene to respond to the anticipated oil spill from the ship's propulsion fuel.

The Unified Command has established a five-mile radius air restriction zone along with a 5,000-foot altitude ceiling.

jpg jayhawk helicopter  crew

Lt. David Neel, a Coast Guard helicopter pilot from Air Station Kodiak, emotionally recounts the hoists, rescues and crash of the Jayhawk helicopter he piloted Wednesday night off Unalaska Island after returning to Kodiak and reuniting with friends and family members.
Official U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Paul Roszkowski

The crew of the Jayhawk helicopter that crashed while hoisting survivors from the Selendang Ayu are all safe and returned to Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak Thursday evening.

The crew of the helicopter are: Lt. Dave Neel of Stilwell, Okla., Lt. Doug Watson of  Cranford, N.J., Petty Officer Second Class Brian Lickfield of Allentown, Penn., and Petty Officer Third Class Aaron Bean of Silvertown, Colo. The families of the crew were on hand when they arrive in Kodiak.



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