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High seas off Haiti send 19 from USNS Comfort hospital ship overboard

Blackadder1916

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A bit of an upset for Comfort off Haiti.

High seas off Haiti send 19 from USNS Comfort hospital ship overboard, derailing U.S. Navy's help mission​

DECEMBER 14, 2022 / 5:19 AM / CBS/AP

Jeremie, Haiti — A U.S. Navy hospital ship docked in southwest Haiti has temporarily suspended medical services after 19 people with the mission fell overboard as heavy swells hit the Caribbean region, officials said Tuesday. It happened Monday night and involved 12 military personnel and seven civilians with the USNS Comfort who were returning to the ship after caring for patients on land, said Lewis Preddy, a U.S. Navy spokesman.

All 19 were pulled back onto the small boat, which was then lifted by a crane onto the ship. He said the usual process is for personnel to use a water taxi and step onto a ladder to board the ship, but that the heavy surf made that impossible.

He said two people were injured but were expected to recover.

Preddy said officials were figuring out how to continue the mission while ensuring people's safety. The heavy swell was expected to last until at least the weekend, according to meteorologists.

Rear Adm. James Aiken, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command-U.S. 4th Fleet, told The Associated Press that officials were working hard to bring the mission in Haiti back online after it began on Monday.

"The need is extremely great, and we're so excited to be able to provide some care," he said in a phone interview.

Officials said they did not immediately have the number of patients that had been treated so far. . . .

There's Canadians sailing with them at present.

From October 23 to December 18, 2022, seven CAF medical and dental personnel are deployed on Operation GLOBE aboard United States Naval Ship (USNS) COMFORT, a MERCY CLASS hospital ship, as the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contribution to the United States humanitarian assistance mission, Operation CONTINUING PROMISE, through Latin America and the Caribbean. USNS COMFORT is a hospital ship that will conduct port visits to various locations in Latin America and the Caribbean. During these port visits, CAF personnel will work with their American counterparts to provide medical and dental care to civilians free of cost. They will also participate in training exercises with members of the USN.
  • USNS COMFORT will provide humanitarian assistance to partner nation communities in: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras.
  • The CAF personnel include: 1 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, 2 Dental Technicians, 2 Medical Technicians, and 2 Nursing Officers.


And a youtube commentary and video of the accident.

 
Looked more like a hoisting rig failure between davit and boat, than an issue with rough seas. By the title, I was expecting waves sweeping over the foc’sl and down the sides of the ship…
 
Some very expressive people on that wing. Perhaps it's just me but I'd be annoyed. The response is not ''gasp oh-em-gee ouatte de phoque'', it's ''MAN OVER BOARD''.

Also, you can see the effect of the swell on the other vessel in the background. Does not seem insurmountable, though, so those first two issues might speak to a problem highlighted in another thread about the declining fortitude of the youth.

All the sources right now seem to indicate 19 people in the water so presumably all those in the boat eventually jumped on purpose? so that they may be safely recovered, hence injuries for the first two only. Would be my guess.

Anyway, questionable situation they put themselves in with not entirely unexpected consequences. Looking forward to read more definitive reports on this.
 
Looked more like a hoisting rig failure between davit and boat, than an issue with rough seas. By the title, I was expecting waves sweeping over the foc’sl and down the sides of the ship…
The same thought that I had at first.
 
Does not seem insurmountable, though, so those first two issues might speak to a problem highlighted in another thread about the declining fortitude of the youth.
Might simply be that no matter how inured you are to hardship or stupidity, some events are simply far enough the normal human experience that a bit of initial shock is going to result, no matter how many times you may have talked through a drill for it.
 
Might simply be that no matter how inured you are to hardship or stupidity, some events are simply far enough the normal human experience that a bit of initial shock is going to result, no matter how many times you may have talked through a drill for it.
Could just be a culture thing too.
 
Not sure there’s much of a cultural priming one way or another for “holy shit a bunch of my buddies just went overboard into the ocean”, but I guess maybe?
You've never seen a TapTap before then? Think jingle truck with a gazillion people hanging off of it as a taxi, you slap the side twice (hence TapTap), driver stops and you get out and toss them some money. The USN Role 2 facility with us in PaP in 2004 had a mass casualty one time when one of these things flipped over just outside the MNF HQ- was like a small bed pickup in this case with built up sides and about 35 people on board when it rolled over...a few were killed, but the USN folks saved around 30 odd lives that day.
 
Might simply be that no matter how inured you are to hardship or stupidity, some events are simply far enough the normal human experience that a bit of initial shock is going to result, no matter how many times you may have talked through a drill for it.
If you spend any time on a large Ship, you'll also realize that while there may be a lot of people "sailing", there are a whole lot less actual "sailors" 😉.

They have too many people in the boat, full stop. Unload pers by jumping ladder or via other means like a side port or articulating ladder.

Once their unloaded, bring the boat coxswain and bowsman alongside and have them complete the evolution.

I have no idea why they would choose to raise a boat with that type of system, filled with that many people?
 
Some very expressive people on that wing. Perhaps it's just me but I'd be annoyed. The response is not ''gasp oh-em-gee ouatte de phoque'', it's ''MAN OVER BOARD''.

Also, you can see the effect of the swell on the other vessel in the background. Does not seem insurmountable, though, so those first two issues might speak to a problem highlighted in another thread about the declining fortitude of the youth.

All the sources right now seem to indicate 19 people in the water so presumably all those in the boat eventually jumped on purpose? so that they may be safely recovered, hence injuries for the first two only. Would be my guess.

Anyway, questionable situation they put themselves in with not entirely unexpected consequences. Looking forward to read more definitive reports on this.

". . . eventually jumped on purpose . . . questionable situation they put themselves in . . ." Huh? How does one "put themselves in" a situation when they are ordered into a boat?

My service at sea is decidedly very limited and long, long ago (with 3 PPCLI embarked as an amphibious landing force during Ex Kernel Potlatch 1979) but I did have a detailed visit and tour on one of the USN's hospital ships shortly after it was converted and brought into service. While my two days of discussions with its plank owner leadership when it was still homeported in Baltimore was prior to its first operational deployment, they had already identified and established comprehensive SOPs which included embarking/debarking patients and crew. I was down there to specifically meet with USN to gain some insight about ship's medical spaces, at the time one of my responsibilities at the SurgGen branch at NDHQ - one of the (non-serious) projects that was proposed for ALMS (ACE Logistical and Medical Support) was a small hospital ship.

Comfort and Mercy are big, big, big ships. Not only internal volume, but also draft and height. That put limits on where it parks, a lot of the harbours to where it has deployed are often too shallow for it to be moored pier side.

Mercys size made it much too large to moor pier side at many of the locations. In response, the vessel embarked Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, which operated two helicopters that shuttled personnel and patients to and from shore sites. The vast majority of people were transported between ship and shore by two boats, called the "Band-Aids," run by Mercys CIVMARs. These boats transported more than 6,000 patients and personnel plus cargo.

When not moored pier side, the preferred method of embarking patients (and pers if possible) is by helicopter. There are obviously limitations to that when the hospital ships are on a MEDCAP and have only limited aviation assets assigned. The T-AHs don't have organic facilities for helicopters other than the landing pad. There are access doors (hatches?) on the both sides of the ship, one forward and one more aft on each side and at different heights. They are used when pier side for gangways as well as for patient/pers (and cargo) transfer from boats depending on the sea state. The internal configuration is not the most efficient for patient embarkation using the access doors.

If you spend any time on a large Ship, you'll also realize that while there may be a lot of people "sailing", there are a whole lot less actual "sailors" 😉.

They have too many people in the boat, full stop. Unload pers by jumping ladder or via other means like a side port or articulating ladder.

Once their unloaded, bring the boat coxswain and bowsman alongside and have them complete the evolution.

I have no idea why they would choose to raise a boat with that type of system, filled with that many people?

The "sailors" (ship operators, including handling the tenders) on the T-AHs are Military Sealift Command, i.e. civilians.

Here's one explanation of the circumstances that led to the tumble.

The problem is that a Mercy-class hospital ship displaces 69,360 tons and its draft dips 33 feet, far too big and deep for Jérémie’s snug harbor. That meant Comfort’s medical team would need to rely on small boats to ferry them back and forth from the ship anchored offshore.

As Comfort’s medical providers cared for Haitians on the wharf on Monday, the sea state got angrier. By sunset, waves were cresting at 4 feet and the swell was getting heavier.

Preddy told Coffee or Die that typically Comfort’s crew would rely on local water taxis for transportation, but the rising waves “made that too dangerous.”

Deckhands also tried the ACOM — an accommodation ladder composed of folding flights of stairs that run down the hull to the water — but the waves soon made that too tricky to use.

So Comfort’s crew decided to lift the boat directly onto the vessel. . . .
 
". . . eventually jumped on purpose . . . questionable situation they put themselves in . . ." Huh? How does one "put themselves in" a situation when they are ordered into a boat?
"They" collectively, as a crew - including the command team.
My service at sea is decidedly very limited
Mine isn't.
The "sailors" (ship operators, including handling the tenders) on the T-AHs are Military Sealift Command, i.e. civilians.
Good point, might explain the odd reactions from the folks on the cameraman's side of the video, who possibly happened to be filming precisely because they are not sailors on the job, and just wanted to record something cool/unusual.

Here's one explanation of the circumstances that led to the tumble.

Doesn't actually add much information. In my mind, they could've used a jumping ladder from the side hatch - same spot where the ACOM goes -, which is super close to the waterline.

But I don't have all the info, which is why I said:
Looking forward to read more definitive reports on this.
As my comments were not a definitive and all-encompassing statement, just initial thoughts from a concerned sailor.

Not sure there’s much of a cultural priming one way or another for “holy shit a bunch of my buddies just went overboard into the ocean”, but I guess maybe?
Not sure culture broadly affects our social interactions? ;)
Kidding aside, emotions - such as stress and shock, as in this case - are not externalized the same way in every culture. I don't think that's a controversial statement.
 
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