By Chris Gardner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore DistrictAugust 10, 2016
BALTIMORE, Md. -- The crew of the Army Corps of Engineers vessel assisted the Coast Guard in the rescue of a distressed vessel roughly five miles off Virginia Beach on the morning of Sunday, August 7.
The crew of the Baltimore District Survey Vessel Linthicum was conducting a routine condition survey of Cape Henry Channel in the Chesapeake Bay as 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 that was taking on water due to malfunctioning electronic equipment. The crew aboard Linthicum kicked into action to provide assistance.
"We train for it," said Ryan Schuman, boat operator for the Linthicum. "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."
First, Linthicum's crew ensured the disabled vessel, which they found in the center of Cape Henry Channel, was out of harm's way. Schuman then contacted the pilot of the inbound cargo vessel, the one that originally notified Linthicum of the flare.
"The wind and tide were in our favor, and we drifted with (the distressed vessel) out of the channel," Schuman said. "And I had made contact … 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."
Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, which had already mobilized rescue operations after receiving word of a distressed a vessel, but only the general location for it, responded by dispatching a 45-foot response boat and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter.
Using the information provided by the crew of the Linthicum, Coast Guard personnel, along with Virginia Beach Fire Department personnel and Virginia Marine Police, quickly arrived on the scene to rescue the boaters and tow their vessel to a nearby marina.
"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," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Castellow, the coxswain of the RBM crew. "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 quickly and the situation worsened for the distressed vessel's crew, the Linthicum stood ready to take them aboard, but Schuman and the Linthicum's crew of the 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."