Two U.S. Air Force helicopters hoisted 32 people from the deck of a damaged Cypriot freighter Saturday during a dramatic and dangerous rescue in the stormy North Atlantic.
The helicopters then flew the West German captain and his wife, the West German engineer, and the 29-member Filipino crew to Ireland.The West German-owned ship, the 42,000-ton Yarrowanga, was bound from Norway to the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada to take on iron ore when it was caught in a gale Friday that put two large gashes in the hull.
The ship's boiler failed Friday, but the crew restarted it and the ship was moving under its own power toward Ireland when the rescuers arrived.
The Yarrowanga was listing in 30-foot waves and 50-mph winds when one of the helicopters first tried unsuccessfully to land on the deck, rescue organizers said.
The long-range HH 53C helicopters, based in Woodbridge-Bentwaters in eastern England, had flown to Shannon International Airport on Friday night and took off early Saturday for the flight of more than 200 miles to the vessel.
They were refueled en route by two long-range HC-130 Hercules tanker aircraft and reached the Yarrowanga in the early afternoon.
In little more than an hour, the first helicopter lifted up 15 people with a winch and the second aircraft hauled up 17 more.
The helicopters then headed back to Shannon, where the Irish Marine Rescue Coordinating Center had been monitoring their progress.
"This was a textbook rescue operation," said Maj. Ken Stafford, leader of the U.S. rescue squad. "Everything went according to plan. All taken off the stricken ship are in good health, and none of them will need to be hospitalized."
As the skipper, identified only as Capt. Pietersen, and his wife stepped out of the rescue helicopter, he shook hands with Irish Marine Minister Brendan Daly and told him, "We are all very happy everything went well. It is great to be back on land."
The rest of the crew was driven to hotels after they were given strict orders not to speak publicly until all reports are made.
The Coast Guard Rescue Center at Falmouth, England, said a Dutch tug, the Typhoon, was expected to reach the Yarrowanga on Sunday and attempt to salvage it.