Sep 192010

image Captain Matteo Russo, 36, and his 59-year-old father-in-law, John Orlando, died within 10 minutes of being thrown into the 5.5 degrees celsius cold waters of Middle Bank, off the Massachusetts coast. Autopsies on both men conclude that they died of drowning in a matter of seconds. Both bodies were found without lifejackets or other personal protective equipment.

The final report does not make reference to cold shock, a condition in which muscle and breath control is lost, may lead to a coronary emergency, and which can lead to drowning, and is the most immediate hazard when immersed in cold water.

Cold shock occurs over a period of seconds. It is unlikely that the men would have been able to climb aboard the liferaft, which had inflated and deployed enough to be used.

A casualty who survives cold shock and is wearing a lifejacket, can survive an hour or more in cold water until hypothermia, the lowering of body core-temperature to an unsustainable level, occurs, which significantly increases the chances of rescue.

The much-criticised search and rescue response by the US Coast Guard is thus irrelevant to the survival of Captain Russo and John Orlando. They were already drowned before even an efficient SAR response could have reached them.

A shore-based fire-alarm was raised at 0115. The US Coat Guard was notified already too late. A coastguard helicopter located the EPIRB beacon at 0512, four hours after Patriot capsized.

The US Coast Guard suggests that the vessel capsized due to a stability failure triggered by lifting the cod-end of the net off the deck. It discounts collision as a cause of the capsize.

The report makes five recommendation:

That 46 USC 3301 be amended to include commercial vessels.

Re-evaluate the application of 46 CFR 28 subpart E, Stability, and amend it to include commercial fishing vessels less that 79 feet in length.

Recommend that commercial vessels be fitted with tracking equipment, preferably a combination of AIS and VMS.

Recommend that the language of regulations for EPIRBs be amended to include an instruction that EPIRBs be installed according to manfacturers instructions.

Recommend that the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program change its criteria for issuing a CFVS decal to require a stability test and the development of a simplified test for commercial fishing vessels.

The report makes no recommendations regarding lifejackets or other life-saving appliances.

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