Rescuers Parachute Into Sea to Aid Injured in Tugboat Fire

Times Staff Writer

Crewman injured in an explosion and fire aboard an oceangoing tugboat 1,100 miles west of San Francisco were picked up by helicopter Friday after scuba-equipped paramedics parachuted into the ocean to bring them aid.

The helicopter was dispatched to move the four fire victims--and the five-man paramedic rescue team--to the aircraft carrier Ranger, where they will be transferred to another aircraft for the flight to a hospital on shore.

"We have reports that all four of the men hurt in the fire are now in stable condition," said Maj. David Swearingen, a spokesman for the California Air National Guard rescue squadron stationed at Moffett Field Naval Air Station south of San Francisco.

"Our Air Guard C-130 (aircraft) is specially equipped for rescue work, and it was airborne with five paramedics on board within minutes after we were informed of the accident Thursday.

"The only problem was the location: The tug is 1,100 miles out in the ocean--and that is 200 miles farther than we've ever tried to do this kind of thing before. . . . "

Swearingen said the five paramedics were carrying full medical kits and radio equipment when they parachuted into the sea near the disabled ocean tug Marine Constructor. Once aboard, they were able to establish a radio link with the airplane overhead.

The radio link enabled them to receive instructions and guidance from Dr. William DeCampli of Stanford Medical Center, who was aboard the C-130.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Paul Powers said radio reports indicated that two of the victims, identified as Mike Hoffman, 32, and Maynard Green, 48, both of Seattle, had burns over 90% of their bodies and were receiving fluids and morphine.

Another victim, William Ike, 27, of Tacoma, Wash., had burns on 25% of his body, Powers said, and the fourth man, not yet identified, was suffering from severe smoke inhalation.

Powers said all had apparently been stabilized, "but must still be considered in very serious condition."

Changing Oil Filter

He said the explosion and fire occurred while the men were changing an oil filter in the engine room of the tug, owned by Marine Logistics Corp. of Seattle, which was pushing two barges from Hawaii to Seattle.

Swearingen said the next step, after initial medical aid had been rendered, was to get the injured men off the once-powerful 150-foot ocean tug, which was rolling dead in the water.

The nearest ship, he said, was the Japanese freighter Jinyu Maru, which altered course to pick up the four victims and five paramedics at 3:30 a.m. Friday.

Powers said a rescue helicopter landed aboard the merchant ship about 12 hours later and loaded the victims and paramedics aboard for the flight to the aircraft carrier.

The rescue airplane turned homeward after the helicopter arrived, Swearingen said, but would not have had enough fuel to reach shore without aid from two C-130 air tankers that were also dispatched to the scene for aerial refueling.

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