By Robert Hiltz
Three Canadians, including a nine-year-old boy, have been plucked from the Pacific Ocean in a dramatic rescue after a 250 metre long container ship sent to save them sank their sailboat.
Mitchell James, 29, his brother Bradley, 32, and Bradley’s son Wesley, first put out a distress signal at about 5:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday after their sailboat lost power and its sails in stormy seas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Edmonton trio were pulled from the water by crew on the Horizon Reliance more than 450 kilometres east of Hawaii after the Reliance was alerted in by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Reliance, Captained by James Kelleher, was more than 200 kilometres northeast of the James’ 12-metre sailboat Liahona when the coast guard directed them to the scene, the rescue service said in a statement.
Due to high winds and seas, the Liahona’s sails were torn away and the boat’s engine overheated, leaving the three Canadians adrift.
When the container ship arrived at about 2:30 a.m., the crew lowered a ladder to conduct the rescue and were able to pull Mitchell to safety. However, when the large vessel approached the smaller craft, it caused a swell that sank the sailboat, sending the remaining two on board into the water where they drifted away.
Bradley James told the CBC that a large gust of wind hit both vessels just as the rescue ship approached: “Those waves also brought the bow of that freighter up, and there’s a big bulb underneath the surface about 28-feet [just over nine metres] down and that thing came out of the water and went right through our boat.”
“They were maneuvering to pick up the passengers and as it became closer to the sailing vessel, they collided somehow. All three people ended up in the water,” said Commander Mark Morin of the U.S. Coast Guard told Hawaii Now.
Thankfully, Wesley and Bradley were wearing life jackets with strobe lights allowing the crew of the Reliance to keep them in sight. The crew was able to bring to safety the remaining Canadians in the water at 3:20 a.m., the coast guard said.
The shipping company that owns the Reliance, Horizon Lines, said the three are expected to arrive in Hawaii aboard the container ship at 4 a.m. local time, or 9 a.m. ET.
“We are thankful the Horizon Reliance was in the right place at the right time to come to the aid of these individuals,” said William A. Hamlin, Horizon Lines Senior Vice President of Operations. “We commend Captain Kelleher and his crew for their skilled seamanship in accomplishing a successful rescue despite very adverse weather conditions.”