Tug Crewmember Rescues Operator of Sunken Crawler Crane

Image courtesy USCG

Published Sep 20, 2023 2:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, a good samaritan mariner rescued a machinery operator after a crawler crane fell into the water at a drydock near Memphis, Tennessee. 

At about 1015 hours, a mobile crane flipped over at the Wepfer Marine shipyard and plunged into the waters of McKellar Lake, an oxbow lake on the Mississippi located southwest of Memphis. Crewmembers from the Coast Guard cutters Oachita and Obion were nearby, and they responded to the scene when the crane collapsed. 

A deckhand on a nearby towing vessel, the Mary Wepfer, saw what was happening and got into the water with a PFD to help out, according to Chief Petty Officer Will Parris, Coast Guard Cutter Ouachita's executive petty officer. The crane operator was unconscious in the water and did not appear to be breathing. A petty officer from the Oachita's crew, BM1 Brandon Sanford, took charge of the scene and grabbed a fire hose from the barge. 

"He came up with the plan to lower the fire hose down to the water to the deckhand from the Mary Wepfer and instructed him to wrap the fire hose around the crane operator three times and tie it, as tight as he could. The crew and workers used the hose to hoist the operator out of the water," said Chief Petty Officer Parris.

The crane operator was not responsive, not breathing and had no pulse. Sanford administered chest compressions, and the man resumed breathing and appeared to expel water from his lungs. His pulse strengthened and his breathing improved. EMS arrived soon after, and the first responders moved the operator off the barge to take him to a higher level of care. 

The victim was unresponsive when they pulled him onto the pier. After checking his vital signs, the Coast Guard responders began administering CPR. They successfully rescuscitated him and waited with him until an ambulance arrived to take him for further care. 

"I couldn't be more proud of how our crew responded," said Chief Petty Officer Will Parris, Coast Guard Cutter Ouachita, executive petty officer. "They relied on their training, experience and each other to get the gentleman the care he needed."

The crane landed upside-down and came to rest on the bottom, with one of its tracks in the air. It has been boomed off to control any potential pollution. Salvage plans have not yet been announced, and the cause of the accident remains under investigation.