A tugboat captain died Saturday when the vessel sank in icy and stormy waters off Fire Island in New York.

Three crewmembers were rescued after one of the men was able to use a cell phone to call the U.S. Coast Guard as the boat, the Sea Bear, was sinking.

“They had only seconds to let us know before they sank,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Morgan Gallapis.

Gallapis said the three crewmembers were rescued by the Coast Guard about a mile off a section of Fire Island known as the Fire Island Pines. They were wearing immersion suits when they were pulled from the water.

Three Coast Guard boats, two other tug boats, Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau boats, a helicopter and Suffolk offers on the beach assisted in the search for the captain, Donald Maloney. His body was found shortly after 5 p.m. According to police, Maloney hadn’t been able to put on an immersion suit as the boat sank in 37 degree water.

The rescued crewmembers were identified as Lars Vetland, 43, of Staten Island; Jason Reimer, 38, of Leonardo, New Jersey; and Rainer Bendixen, 22, of Bay Head, New Jersey. The three were treated for hypothermia at the Fire Island Coast Guard station.

The cause of the sinking was not yet known, but the accident occurred in a storm. The bad weather and heavy ice in the water hampered search efforts after the sinking.

The Sea Bear was among three tugboats returning to their base at the time of the accident. Gallapis said the tug, owned by Wittich brothers Marine Inc., was working on a dredging project.

“This tug was in the back of the line when it sank,” Gallapis said. “The other tugs continued without seeing them. They heard the distress call and headed back to assist in the search.”

Help For Ship Sinking Accident Victims

There are many reasons why a vessel may sink. While in this case weather may certainly have been a factor, a full investigation is important to determine whether there were other factors involved.

“When a ship sinks in stormy weather, it’s most often not just because of the storm,” said attorneys at SMS Legal. “The underlying cause may be Improper crew training, an unseaworthy vessel, improperly loaded cargo, or other issues of negligence.”

As a maritime law firm, Schechter, Shaffer & Harris works for the crewmembers and the families of those killed in sinking accidents to find the true cause of the accident.

“While we work with all of the investigating agencies, we also run our own investigation to ensure the evidence has been properly preserved and analyzed,”.

Attorneys from SMSH have extensive experience handling drownings of maritime workers, including the case of a dredge worker who drowned in December 2014 in Wilmington, Delaware.

With more than 100 years of combined experience in investigating ship accidents, our New York maritime attorneys have helped hundreds of seamen and their families from across the nation recover compensation for their injuries and financial damages related to such ship sinkings. If you were injured or a loved one killed in a maritime accident in any U.S. waters, contact us today for a free consultation to learn your rights.

Source: USA Today