USS CARR, At Sea -- The guided missile frigate USS Carr (FFG 52) assisted a Panamanian fishing vessel in distress while operating in the Eastern Pacific Nov. 7.
While conducting a routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific in support of Operation Martillo, Carr's embarked SH-60B Helicopter Squadron Light, detachment 48.2 (HSL 48.2) spotted a small fishing vessel.
As the helicopter got closer, personnel in the boat waved white sheets at the helicopter and were producing black smoke from a barrel - both signals of a vessel in distress. The helicopter relayed the information to Carr, which immediately turned towards the vessel while the crew of the helicopter remained overhead to monitor them. Once Carr arrived on scene, a small boat was launched to render assistance.
"Whenever we are operating at sea we, are always on the lookout for vessels in distress. On the sea, it doesn't matter where you sailed from, mariners must come to the aid of each other in times of need," said LT Mark Hardzinski, Carr's navigator.
After talking with the fishing vessel's crew, Carr discovered they had been adrift for nine days and had been surviving on small rations of rice and water.
"The crew of the vessel said that they attempted to contact four merchant ships with flares and mirrors, but received no help. They were rationing their food and water but were quickly running out; one of the crew members stated that he thought they were going to die." said special agent Carlos Castro, who is assigned to Carr.
The captain of the vessel also stated that the crew had given up hope of being rescued since their water was almost gone, their batteries were drained, and their supply of flares was exhausted.
Carr's rescue and assistance team conducted an inspection of the vessel's engine and found the water pump drive belt had failed, the vessel was low on fuel and lubricating oil, and both marine batteries were completely drained. Carr supplied the four members of the crew with food and water, replaced the drive belt, provided fuel, replenished their oil and charged both of their batteries. Once the batteries were returned, the engine started and the vessel began to proceed toward the Panamanian coast. Carr followed the vessel throughout the night to ensure there were no more issues and at first light, delivered more fuel and lube oil to ensure the vessel could make it the approximately 60 miles back to Panamanian waters.
"Over my two years in command of Carr, we have provided support to several vessels in distress. I am always impressed by the ability and professionalism of Carr's Sailors and helicopter detachment." stated Carr's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Patrick Kulakowski. "It is very satisfying to know that we helped some mariners return to their families today."
Carr is homeported in Norfolk, Va., and is currently deployed in support of Operation Martillo, under operational control to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and C4F (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) while conducting operations for Combat Transnational Organized Crime (C-TOC) in support of Joint Interagency Task Force - South, U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), and U.S. Coast Guard District Eleven.