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October 20th, 2009

Alaska Boat Crew Escape Without Injuries After Fire Accident

Fire accidents are just one of the hazards that a Jones Act seaman faces as part of his job at sea.  Two men on a 55-foot boat in Alaska escaped without injuries after a fire engulfed their vessel in the Chatham Straits.

According to Captain Mike Worthington, the fire broke out in the engine room of his vessel, Alaskan Pride. There is no information yet on what caused the fire, but according to reports, it spread very quickly. Both Worthington and his lone deckhand tried to put out the fire, and when they couldn’t, prepared to abandon the vessel. They put on their survival suits, placed a mayday call for assistance and got into the life raft. By that time, much of the vessel was already on fire. Making things harder for them were strong winds and choppy seas with 10-foot waves. Their call alerted a vessel belonging to the Alaska Marine Highway System nearby, and the two men were rescued from the life raft.

The survival of Captain Worthington and his deckhand Darren Manual is a testament to how safety training and the availability of proper safety equipment can help the crew of a vessel in an emergency. Captain Worthington himself says that they were able to escape the burning boat without injuries, because of his recent safety training classes conducted by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association. The classes, he says, taught him all the things that helped him in an emergency.

Surviving accidents or emergencies at sea has a lot to do with the kind of training you receive. A Jones Act seaman, faced with an emergency at sea, may find that his chances of surviving without injuries, or surviving at all, are drastically reduced if he doesn’t have access to life saving equipment, or hasn’t been trained to use these properly.   A vessel owner is required to make sure that his vessel is equipped with fire-fighting equipment, life rafts, life jackets, survival suits, EPIRBs and other life saving equipment. It’s also important that seamen be trained to use these systems properly.

A Jones Act seaman who is injured either through lack of sufficient and well functioning safety equipment, or because of lack of training to use these, may be eligible not only for a Jones Act claim against his employer, but also for a claim of unseaworthiness against the vessel owner.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers  are trial attorneys representing crew members of cargo ships, commercial fishing vessel crew members, barge and tugboat operators, cruise liner crews, offshore rig workers, jack-up rig workers, tanker and freighter crews and other workers who qualify for Jones Act seaman status, in injury and wrongful death litigation. Please contact us at info@smslegal.com for a free evaluation of your maritime injury case.

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