The U.S. Coast Guard released a report detailing what happened during a search-and-rescue response that resulted in the death of a civilian mariner last November.
On Nov. 5, 2015, the Coast Guard received a distress call from the master of the 30-foot sailing vessel Kolina 20 miles south of Maui.
As USCG cutter Kiska towed the vessel to shore, its crew lost communication with the mariner and saw that the mast had snapped. Search crews eventually found the 71-year-old man dead, caught in rigging alongside the vessel.
A Major Incident Investigation (MII) was launched to determine what happened.
According to the report, the man was a seasoned mariner who lived aboard the vessel with the last known address in Kawaihae Boat Park, Honolulu, Hawaii.
His death was ruled a traumatic head injury sustained during a vessel tow. Unbeknownst to the responding Coast Guard cutter’s crew, the victim tethered himself to a jury-rigged mast while his vessel was under tow during 8- to 10-foot seas. During the course of the tow the mast snapped, killing him.
In its summary findings, the MII board found Kolina lacked any deck fittings to attach the towline, so the mariner attached the towline to a jury-rigged mast improperly supported with polypropylene line in lieu of wire-rope standing rigging. This arrangement was insufficient to withstand the forces generated during the towing evolution and the jury-rigged mast snapped.
“Any loss of life is a cause for reflection, and the Coast Guard has completed an investigation to determine any factors to improve our response capabilities in the future,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander. “The sea is dangerous and unpredictable; regular vessel safety checks help mitigate some of that danger.”