Monday, September 27, 2010

Breaking: 13 drown during Navy rescue attempt

USS WINSTON CHURCHILL, Gulf of Aden – USS Winston S. Churchill, assigned to Combined Task Force 151 identified a skiff drifting in the Gulf of Aden, Sept. 26. The skiff was initially discovered at approximately 7:30 a.m. local (Bahrain) by the Republic of Korea vessel, ROKN Wan Geon who passed the skiff’s position to Winston S. Churchill, operating in the vicinity. The skiff was carrying approximately 85 passengers, consisting of 10 Somalis and 75 Ethiopians.

Once on station, CTF 151 commander, Turkish Navy Rear Adm. Sinan Ertugrul, directed Winston S. Churchill to render assistance to the skiff. Using a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, Churchill crew members boarded the skiff and immediately rendered assistance, providing food and water to the skiff’s passengers. Churchill crew members determined the engines were inoperable and attempted to effect repairs, but were unsuccessful.

The RHIB then began towing the vessel to safety out of the Gulf’s maritime traffic corridor and toward the coast of Somalia.

The following morning at 8:30 local (Bahrain), Sept 27, while transferring humanitarian supplies to the skiff, the passengers rushed to one side and the skiff began taking on water, quickly capsizing and sinking rapidly, leaving all 85 passengers in the water. Winston S. Churchill immediately began conducting search and rescue operations using an additional RHIB assisted by an Australian maritime patrol aircraft.

Despite the effort, approximately 13 passengers drowned, while 61 passengers were rescued and brought safely onboard Winston S. Churchill. Eight passengers have been listed as missing.

The event is under investigation. Additional details will be released as they become available.

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