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All 4 Crew Members Rescued From Overturned Ship Off Georgia Coast

In this image released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a helicopter hovers over the overturned Golden Ray cargo vessel in St. Simons Sound, Ga., on Monday. Twenty of the 24 people on board had been rescued as of Sunday afternoon, when crews were forced to suspend the search because of safety concerns related to a fire on the ship.
U.S. Coast Guard via AP

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has rescued the fourth and final crew member from an overturned car carrier vessel in waters off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., after reporting earlier in the day that all but one had been pulled to safety.

In a tweet Monday evening, the Coast Guard's 7th District Southeast, located in Miami, tweeted that "All crew members are accounted for. Operations now shift fully to environmental protection, removing the vessel and resuming commerce."

Earlier Monday, Capt. John Reed, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said at a news conference he had "outstanding news to report."

"Three of the four survivors aboard the Golden Ray have been extracted from the space," Reed said. "The fourth survivor has been located and its an ongoing operation to try to get him out."

Rescue crews had been working since Sunday to locate the missing crew members after the Golden Ray became disabled and eventually overturned in St. Simons Sound, about 80 miles south of Savannah, Ga.

Emergency responders were notified shortly after 2 a.m. ET Sunday that a ship was disabled and "listing heavy" to its port side. A total of 23 crew members and a pilot were on the vessel at the time, and 20 people had been rescued from the ship Sunday, Coast Guard officials said.

On Monday, the 7th District Southeast said in a tweet around 12:45 p.m. ET: "All 4 #GoldenRay crew members are confirmed alive. Conditions unknown. Response crews will drill a hole to deliver supplies."

Reed says once the initial 3-inch hole was drilled into the hull of the ship, food and fresh water were passed to the three that were eventually pulled out. Getting fresh air to them was also key, he said.

None of the names of the survivors were released.

Reed added the three survivors rescued earlier Monday were doing relatively well for having spent more than 30 hours inside the upturned vessel. All three were being treated at a local hospital. At least two were "very ambulatory" and able to walk under their own power, Reed added.

U.S. Coast Guard crews and port partners respond to a disabled cargo vessel with a fire on board Sunday in St. Simons Sound, off the coast of Brunswick, Ga.
/ U.S. Coast Guard via AP
U.S. Coast Guard via AP
U.S. Coast Guard crews and port partners respond to a disabled cargo vessel with a fire on board Sunday in St. Simons Sound, off the coast of Brunswick, Ga.

Temperatures in Brunswick were in the 90s Monday, but with 80% humidity, temperatures felt hotter than 100 degrees. Reed estimates temperatures inside the vessel "were probably pushing 120 [degrees] or more."

Hours before the announcement that three of the missing crew had been brought to safety, the Coast Guard said on Twitter that rescue workers were making extraction plans after contacting the crew trapped aboard the the 656-foot vehicle carrier.

The message included short videos of salvage crews appearing to puncture the hull of the ship.

A fire on the ship temporarily suspended rescue operations on Sunday afternoon.

"As smoke and flames began to appear, our crews ... assessed the situation was too risky to further go inside the vessel to attempt to locate the four individuals who remain missing at this time," Reed said Sunday.

Investigators are still working to determine what caused the ship, which is sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, to overturn.

Investigators say along with the rescue operation, they are also working on pollution mitigation operations and how to bring the massive car carrier's hull upright.

"The next step will really be to drill down on stability of the vessel and to refine a solid plan for righting the vessel," said Cmdr. Norm Witt, who leads the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Savannah.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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