1. #1
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    Mar 2004
    Memphis Tn,USA-now

    Default FUBAR Man overboard

    We had a man overboard at my job the other day.
    I work on the river and we were moving away from the dock when the pilot told me over the radio that the other deckhand had fallen.
    From the pilot's casual attitude about it,I thought he had fallen on his face on deck but soon saw that he was in the water and was not moving.
    Since the pilot had not yet called away the man overboard alarm or rang the general alarm,or even blasted the 5 danger blasts on the boat's whistle,I told him to do so and started screaming over the radio myself"Man Overboard!Man Overboard Dock 2!Dock 2!Get me some f***in' help down here right f***in' now!Man Overboard !Dock 2!He's under the dock!"
    (So the FCC rules prohibit cussing over the radio.They can cite me for it.)
    I kept hollering at my buddy and shoving the ball end of a 15' spike pole for him to grab so I could pull him out but he still wasn't moving.There was no current so he wouldn't have been swept away by anything but wheelwash from the boat.
    Finally he started to move and grab at the pole.By then the boss,the terminal manager and the truck dispatcher arrived and helped drag him from the water.
    He was spitting frothy pink blood,had a cut on his head and had the imprint of his lifevest on his shoulder blades and left kidney area.
    Despite this,the manager accepted his claim to be alright and left after looking where he'd fallen 13 feet into the river and maybe bounced off the boat's portside tow knee.
    The remaining two hours of the shift,we sat in the galley as he changed into dry clothes with me trying to convince him to see a doctor because he'd nearly drowned.
    I keep a first reponse bag,more of an owie kit really,but I do keep an EMS field guide for reference and read the part to him about how drowning victims need to be transported forthwith due to the risk of developing pulmonary edema.
    At watch change,I got him to realize that it would be better to find nothing was wrong at company expense than to have his wife frantically calling 911 in the morning because he didn't wake up for work.
    I got him and his family to the hospital POV and later got a call.
    He'd been diagnosed with contusions on his heart and lungs,he'd been concussed and they figure that if he hadn't been wearing his life vest for added padding,the fall would have broken the ribs around his heart and could have killed him on the spot.

    The manager told me yesterday that"Next time",we're calling 911(why wasn't it dialed THIS time buttmunch?Man could have died and this clown's late for his kid's tee ball game).I know that I screwed up royally by not being more insistant that management remain on scene until he went,but we also need to make sure everyone knows what to do if and when someone falls overboard.
    On the harbor towboats that I work on,the usual crew is two guys: pilot and deckhand.Some outfits run two deckhands like we do during the week.
    Whoever sees the man overboard needs to call it out"Man overboard"and location"From the portside!Man Overboard!" and keeps the guy in sight.The boat operator needs to keep the propellors away from the victim by steering into him to swing the stern away and stop engines ASAP.He also needs to sound the general alarm to wake up other crewmembers and to make the call on the radio for outside help.Let the office use the phone,it takes too many hands to drive a towboat and use a cellphone at the same time.
    Other crewmembers should bring life rings,throwing lines,spike pole,anything to reach the victim and to make the yawl ready for lowering if he's gone too far or cannot reach himself for the ring or pole.
    As I said earlier,use the ball end instead of the spike end.If he's still alive,you don't want to be jabbing a 6" spike at him even if it has a hook side to it to grab onto.
    In cold weather especially,you want to handle him gently to reduce the risk of his going into cardiac arrest.Hot or cold weather,have dry clothes available and towels to dry and blankets warm the victim up.Cold weather,IF the person is conscious and able to protect his airway,have gelatin dissolved in faucet hot water to add carbohydrates for the energy to keep warmer.
    Even if he is saying he'll tough it out,get medical assitance going right away,no matter who tells you not to until you know for sure.I haven't taken the NREMT exam so I can't give a clean bill of health to anyone.
    I'd rather have a bill for an unneeded ambulance than to go to a funeral home to tell a guy's wife what a great guy he'd been.
    We got lucky that day despite the mistakes made.

  2. #2
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    dmleblanc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...


    Man, I'd hate to work for your company. That should have been a 911 call on several points:

    -~13 foot fall, and "maybe bounced off the port side tow knee"...I'd call that a significant mechanism of injury
    -Was unconscious/unresponsive (even though he regained consciousness)
    -Spitting frothy pink blood and signs of impact to the torso...possible internal injuries
    -Cut to the head (particularly combined with the unconscious/unresponsive)...probable head injury

    In my work setting, that would have been a mandatory transport by ambulance....no ifs, ands, or buts. I can't make any judgements on what the boat pilot/crew should do in a man overboard situation, since I've never worked on the river, although your comments sound right on. But I would hope your company would review this incident and recognize just how serious it could have been. They should change their policies and not allow any employee to "tough it out till the end of the shift" after such an accident. The man needed to be checked out by a doctor.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

  3. #3
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    Mar 2004
    Memphis Tn,USA-now


    Yeah,I really don't like some of the working conditions either.One good thing that's come out of it is that now ALL employees are required to wear life vests on the docks and the boats and dredge.If you go near the water like Sammy Kershaw's first girlfriend did,you wear a Mark V type work vest.Even the boat pilots are wearing them until the get to the wheelhouse where we can take them off.It's a common running joke on the river that the pilot and Captain are usually exempt from wearing a vest as obtaining the Master's license includes training in walking on water.Not around this job site.
    He wasn't allowed to tough it out really.The safety director is first responder trained and since he accepted my buddy's claim that he didn't want a doctor,he okayed that call but I kept at "Joe" the rest of the shift.That boat was NOT going to leave the dock the rest of that shift with a three man crew.Somebody was going to the doctor.
    I forgot to mention that even in the Essentials of Firefighting,it says the sequence of water rescue(including being properly trained and equipped beforehand)is to "reach,throw,row,and go".
    You stay on the boat,dock,riverbank,bridge,whatever the victim fell from and REACH with a stick,spike pole,boat paddle,anything handy to draw them back close enough to be pulled out.
    You THROW a line,a life ring with a line attached for retrieval,another life vest for use until he can be recovered,something with a cord strong enough to hold 200 of human being being dragged at least to where they can be pulled from the water.
    You ROW by getting into a boat with oars,sails,or any electrical or mechanical propulsion to go out and pull them into the boat and then return to the dock,bank or mother vessel for treatment and transport.
    As a LAST RESORT,you can GO by donning a life vest,bending a retrieval line to yourself and only then jumping into the water.
    This could be because the victim is not moving or does not have the dexterity left to grab the retrieval devices available.
    The reason that method is a last resort is that it only adds another person in the water to potentially need rescuing.
    Just because you've seen every episode of "Deadliest Catch" and dream of joining the Coast Guard to be just like Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher in "The Guardian" is not enough training to make an inwater rescue.
    If the danger doesn't make you want to stay out of the river,consider this.Despite having the Clean Water Act for 30+ years,there are still some very nasty chemicals that get dumped into the river system.I am told that some people in NOLA had chemical burns just from wading in the water after Katrina and Rita hit that area.You don't want that.
    I have only gone into the Mississippi River deliberately ONE time to test the effectiveness of my vest.I was in a slack water harbor and we were up stream,as it were,from all the refinery,and grain milling docks around Memphis.
    FWII,I went to visit "Joe" last night at the hospital.His family was there and as soon as he told them who I was,I got mobbed.I was the first one from the company to physically visit him.
    He still has some heart problems that may kill his dream to get his pilot's license.He'll be checked on that again Monday on the company's dime.
    If it does,it sucks the big one.This guy's a damn good deckhand.

  4. #4
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....

    Thumbs up Hey Doug.............

    Outstanding Job on your part. Maritime (Including Inland Waterways) occupations seem to slip below OSHA's radar from time to time, and "Enforcement" is rare. You have a much greater chance of seeing someone from ACE or USCG on the river, doing what they can to insure safe working conditions. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have SOPs regarding working around the Water, and the mandatory use of Flotation devices by all personnel engaged in operations on or around Boats, Piers, Bulkheads, Bridges, etc. Only time that I know of that a conflict could arise is in Firefighting Operations where Fire PPE and Flotation devices both are needed..........

    BTW, I never met Sammy Kershaw's Girlfriend. What the heck was that about?
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.


  5. #5
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    Mar 2004
    Memphis Tn,USA-now


    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    BTW, I never met Sammy Kershaw's Girlfriend. What the heck was that about?
    "Don't go near the water."

    Latest word on Joe is that he's home again and will see his doctor next week to see if he's cleared to return to work.
    At work EVERYBODY is wearing vests even when they are in a barge working to load or unload it.

  6. #6
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    Nov 2002


    MOB procedures must be different than what we did back in the day in the CG. We taught that who ever saw the MOB called it out and became the "pointer", constantly pointing to the MOB while the Coxswain manuevered the boat around for the pick up. I used to drill this all the time when I was doing crew training. Key is constant training so folks automatically do what they are suppose to. (Make calls, hit MOB button on GPS, etc) During Desert Storm we had a SA go overboard off a 41 while we were up on plane and had him back on the deck in under 60 seconds. Only because we drilled, drilled, drilled and everyone did their job. Of course we still had to explain to Distrcit why we had a MOB in the first place!
    "Experience is the name everyone gives their mistakes." Oscar Wilde

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