Orleck To The Rescue!

by LCDR Robert Terhune

Three sailing companions survived 90 minutes in the frigid waters of Commencement Bay in January before a dramatic rescue by crew members of the Navy destroyer USS ORLECK, but the sailboat’s skipper was missing and presumed drowned.

The Tacoma-based destroyer was underway for an at-sea Reserve drill weekend of exercises on Saturday, 16 January when about 1100 SELRES crew members and forward lookout SA Mark Wittenauer spotted and reported what turned out to be three sail boaters in the chilly 48-degree waters of Puget Sound.

The ORLECKwent to “Man-Overboard” recovery stations and made an alongside ship recovery of the three with swimmers in wet suits helping the boating accident victims out of the water. Operations Officer LTJG Fred Duckworth, conned the FRAM 1 destroyer in for the rescue under the watchful eye of ORLECK CO H.A. Torok.

Once the three sail boaters were aboard they were treated for hypothermia and shock by Ship’s Corpsmen. A request went out to all crew members for a donation of some warm, dry clothing and the crew’s generosity overwhelmed the victims. After they had warmed up and their physical condition was stabilized, they were transferred to Tacoma General Hospital via Tacoma fire Department Fire Boat for further medical care.

The three persons who were rescued had been in the water for more than 90 minutes. The search for the sailboat’s skipper continued without success until darkness.

The Coast Guard Cutter POINT GLASS, as well as Coast Guard and Army helicopters were involved in the search with ORLECK.

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