Skip to comments.Crew Member Hurt In Jersey Tug Blast
Posted on 02/28/2005 6:43:34 AM PST by Calpernia
Officials are trying to determine what caused an explosion in a tug boat's engine room about nine miles off the coast of Seaside Heights.
Yesterday's blast left a 35-year-old crew member in critical condition at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with second- and third-degree burns.
The Bouchard was towing an empty oil cargo vessel at the time of explosion.
Shortly after noon Sunday, crew members of the tug boat Robert J. Bouchard, based in New York, sent out a distress call after the explosion injured crew member Kelsey Cooper, 35. Cooper's hometown was not known yesterday by authorities.
The Bouchard was towing an empty oil cargo vessel and was nine miles off the coast of Seaside Heights when there was an explosion in the tug's engine room. The resulting fire caused second- and third-degree burns on Cooper, State Police staff Sgt. John Edwards said.
Coast Guard Station Manasquan dispatched a 47-foot patrol boat and a 23-foot rigid hull inflatable to the rescue the tug. The State Police Marine division had a 44-foot patrol boat just off the coast of Point Pleasant Beach, where it was on patrol for the Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Jenkinson's at noon, State Police staff Sgt. Thomas Rasmussen said.
"We could see the smoke," said State Police Sgt. Ken Wilson, who was on board the boat.
The Marine Police reached the tug first and had gone onboard to find Cooper burned over much of his body, Wilson said. While administering first aid to Cooper, police determined that the tug was not seaworthy, Wilson said.
"The sides of the tug were bulging out, and we held an emergency evacuation and got them onto our patrol boat," Wilson said.
The Coast Guard took three of the crew members onto its patrol boat. The Coast Guard helicopter, dispatched from Atlantic City, worked closely with the state police vessel and transported Cooper directly on to the helicopter via a basket on a line. Cooper was then flown immediately to St. Barnabas.
Wilson said that Cooper was in a great deal of pain, and the direct transport saved him from being handled more than necessary.
The operation in which Cooper was transported to the helicopter was learned in cross training exercise between the Coast Guard and the State Police.
"It all comes back to training," Wilson said. "We have done this with the Coast Guard in training exercises, and he was in too much pain" to make any other choices. The lift operation took about five minutes before Cooper was en route to the hospital, Wilson said.
"It went really smooth," Wilson said.
The rescue operation was a great success thanks to the cooperative training efforts between the Coast Guard and state and federal agencies, Edwards said.
"Especially since 9/11, the Coast Guard has worked closely with state and federal agencies to make operations such as this a success," Edwards said. "Inter-agency cooperation is a huge asset to the Coast Guard as well as the other agencies."
The oil cargo vessel being towed was anchored in the water, Wilson said.
Cooper was listed in critical condition late Sunday.
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