NOAA officers recall rescue of crew members from sunken tugboat - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

NOAA officers recall rescue of crew members from sunken tugboat

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

When the tugboat Nalani sank in waters off Oahu's leeward coast Thursday, safety for some of the crew members came in the form of a NOAA patrol boat.Jeff Pollack and Grant Demesillo are enforcement officers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They were aboard NOAA Patrol Boat F3503 Thursday afternoon.

"We were out transiting, heading back into Sand Island, when he heard over the VHF radio a mayday call for a vessel in distress," said Pollack, a NOAA special agent.

The call came from the 95-foot Nalani, about two miles off Barbers Point. The patrol boat made it through rough seas and got to the scene in about 15 minutes.

"There was oil on the surface and a lot of debris out on the water, and there were two life rafts floating, and there were also three individuals swimming in the water," said Pollack.

Pollack said there was no sign of the tugboat itself. "We were looking for a vessel in distress. And to see no vessel -- we realized it must have gone down pretty quick."

The crew members didn't speak English, but they did recognize that the patrol boat was there to rescue them. Demesillo, a NOAA officer, got to work pulling them aboard. "They were kinda slippery from all the diesel fuel on them, but we got them on board and they were really thankful."

Pollack and Demesillo picked up nine of the Nalani's crew members, while another tug boat picked up two more. All of them were transferred to a Coast Guard boat before being taken ashore.

NOAA patrol boats protect marine fisheries by cracking down on illegal fishing and enforcing federal regulations protecting humpback whales. But officers are also trained for rescues, and Patrol Boat F3503 now has a souvenir of one such rescue: an orange life preserver from the Nalani.

Pollack and Demesillo say it was all in a day's work.

When asked whether he considered themselves heroes, Demesillo replied, "I wouldn't say heroes. You know, we're just out there doing our job."

Said Pollack, "We were glad to be in the right place at the right time and help save people."

Related story: Monk seals relocated in wake of possible spill from sunken tugboat

Copyright 2015 HawaiiNewsNow. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly