The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

April 4, 2013

Search off for missing Alabama shipyard worker

MOBILE, Ala. — Divers and Coast Guard rescuers called off a search Thursday for a shipyard worker who was thrown into the water in strong winds that were also blowing when a hobbled cruise ship tore away from its moorings.

The Coast Guard said rescue crews searched the area for 15 hours using 15 boats and aircraft.

“It is always extremely difficult to suspend a search when a person is still missing,” said Capt. Ed Cubanski, chief of response, 8th Coast Guard District.

Authorities, meanwhile, decided to move the 900-foot Carnival Triumph from a private pier to the nearby Mobile Cruise Terminal because it had been impairing search efforts, said Coast Guard Spokesman Lt. Mike Clausen.

“They didn’t want the divers to have to go underneath the cruise ship,” Clausen said, adding that the vessel eventually will return to the shipyard for continued repair work.  

Officials identified the missing man as John “Buster” Johnson, 64, an employee for shipyard owner BAE Support Systems since 1997.

Plans also were underway Thursday to extract the ship’s massive anchor from the shipping channel, where it was cut loose after the Triumph broke away from its moorings. The anchor was impeding other channel traffic Thursday, Clausen said.

The worker, one of two employees tossed into the water in hurricane-force winds Wednesday, is an employee of BAE Systems Support Solutions, the company that owns the private dock where the cruise ship is undergoing repairs after being stranded off the coast of Mexico for five days in February. The second worker was rescued.  A guard shack on the pier also blew into the water, but it did not appear that either worker was in it at the time, said BAE spokesman John Measell.

It was in the same winds that tore the Triumph from the dock. The ship then lumbered downriver and crunched into a cargo ship. It drifted for a couple of hours before being secured about 5 p.m. Wednesday, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.

The Triumph was at the dock for repairs after the engine fire left the ship adrift without power for five days, subjecting thousands of passengers and crew to horrendous conditions including food shortages and raw sewage running in corridors.

A 20-foot gash about 2 to 3 feet wide was visible about halfway up the hull from the water and it wrapped partway around the stern. Underneath the gashed area, two levels of railing were dangling and broken. Electric cables that had been plugged in on shore were dangling from the port side of the ship.

Gulliksen said an assessment of damage to the ship was ongoing and that all of Carnival’s 600 crew members and 200 contractors who were working aboard the vessel would remain on the ship. Gulliksen said the company had no plans to rename the troubled Triumph.

The pier where the ship was docked wasn’t damaged but one adjacent to it was when the ship bumped into it, Measell said.

 

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