Search for Missing Bulker Crewmember Called Off

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Coast Guard SAR helicopter conducting exercises in Chesapeake Bay, 2012 (USCG)

By MarEx 2018-03-13 15:06:00

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended a search for a missing crewmember from the bulker Lara Venture near Cape Charles, Virginia. 

The crewmember, a 33-year-old Chinese national, was seen falling over the side at about 0200 hours Tuesday morning. At the time of the accident, the Venture was at anchor, and the victim was fastening a ladder on the starboard quarter. He was not wearing a life jacket.

A USCG helicopter aircrew and the crew of the cutter Sea Horse conducted a 12-hour search covering about 110 square miles. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 2 out of Norfolk and the Virginia Pilot Association assisted. However, the combined search team could not find the missing man, and the Coast Guard called off the effort on Tuesday afternoon. 

Air and water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay were below 50 degrees and winds were up to 20 knots, lowering the odds of survival without a life jacket. “Suspending a search is one of the most difficult choices we have to make in the Coast Guard, and several factors – water temperature, weather conditions, and length of time the person has been missing – inform the decision,” said Coast Guard Capt. Rick Wester, commander, Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to the sailor’s family and fellow crewmen.”

The Lara Venture is a Hong Kong-flagged bulker built in 2011. According to her Equasis record, a port state control inspection in France last year found that her immersion suits and her rescue boat were not in order. There are no reports that these past inspection deficiencies were connected with Tuesday's accident. 

The Venture was last in the news in 2014, when her crew rescued 19 people from the sinking of the Philippine ferry Maharlika II. As of Tuesday afternoon she was still at anchor in Chesapeake Bay.