Monday, December 20, 2004

Selendang Ayu

In Dec of 2004, I was in Dutch Harbor when the Selendang Ayu incident occurred.

The Selendang Ayu was a Malaysian cargo ship which was carrying a cargo of soybeans when it developed engine trouble and lost all power to it's propellers.

I was dispatched with a salvage team to assess the conditions and the feasibility of securing the drifting ship with tugs.

When I first flew out to the Selendang Ayu it was still a couple miles off shore.

Having broke 2 anchor lines, and subsequent tow lines she was now drifting without power. The ship eventually ran aground approximately 1 mile off shore and as I hovered beside the huge ship I observed waves breaking over the deck, which I estimated to be 35 to 40 foot waves. In this hover my airspeed indicator was showing 60+ knots.

In literally seconds the sky turned ominously dark and ice began building up on the bubble of the helicopter. It was time for us to leave. As I turned and headed back towards Dutch Harbor, I passed an incoming CG helicopter which was going out to hoist the last of the crew off the ship.

We flew home in pitch dark and blowing snow. When we landed in Dutch Harbor we were informed that the Coast Guard J-Hawk had gone in the water and that the Selendang Ayu had broke in half.

Fortunately there was CG Dolphin that was flying backup for the J-Hawk that was only a couple miles away. The Dolphin was able to rescue the 3 member crew from the water but 6 ship crewmen were lost, never to be found.

These photos show the progression of the whole incident from my view point in the helicopter.

The Selendang Ayu runs aground and the crew waits for rescue...

The weather worsens... Seas at 35 - 40 feet and winds in excess of 60 knots.

This Coast Guard J-Hawk rescues 9 and lowers them to the pitching deck or the Alex Healy. On the second rescue attempt that night, this helicopter goes in to the sea while hoisting a 7th ships crewmember.

The same J-Hawk the next morning after the rescue attempt.

45 Minutes later the Salendange Ayu brakes in half. This is the view the next morning.