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2 rescued as research vessel sinks off Rehoboth

A punishing gale broke apart a research ship launched in March to study Delaware’s offshore wind power resources, forcing the Coast Guard to rescue two crewmen from the sinking vessel.

An Atlantic City-based helicopter plucked two crewmen from the RV Russell W. Peterson at about 9:30 a.m. after they reported the ship was being pushed onto a jetty, taking on water and in danger of sinking.

Both men were ferried to Peninsula General Medical Center in Salisbury, Md., according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher McLaughlin. Their names and condition were not immediately available.

The Peterson, a former Gulf Coast oil industry service boat, was christened March 29 and sent to sea to support Bluewater Wind LLC’s efforts to build a 150-turbine offshore wind farm in Atlantic waters east of Delaware.

McLaughlin said a Coast Guard swimmer helped one of the two crew members into a basket during the rescue.

The ship sent out a distress call at about 8:46 a.m. while trying to negotiate swells of 12 to 14 feet, in winds that were were blowing at 30 to 40 knots.

McLaughlin said the ship remained adrift and partially sunk this morning, although its owner was making salvage plans.

The helicopter crew wrapped up the rescue as hundreds of residents waited out a slow-moving northeast storm in evacuation centers or flooded communities across the region’s coastal areas. In hard-hit Bowers Beach, residents described the sudden tidal flooding and high winds as the worst in decades, and said they were worried that damage could rise during the next high tide late this afternoon.

By Jeff Montgomery

The News Journal


12 May 2008