Coast Guard Sector San Juan received the Coast Guard Foundation Award and the foundation recognized Joseph E. Farrell Jr., president and CEO of Resolve Marine group, for his support at the foundation’s annual tribute to the Seventh Coast Guard District.
Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of the Atlantic area, was the keynote speaker at the event, which was held Wednesday at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort.
Coast Guard Sector San Juan was recognized for its response to the Caribbean Fantasy ferry accident on Aug. 17. That morning, 911 operators relayed reports of a cruise ship on fire just outside the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Subsequent radio calls to the Caribbean Fantasy, a 614-foot passenger and cargo ferry inbound from the Dominican Republic, confirmed that a fire in the engine room was out of control, toxic smoke was filling the passageways and the vessel’s 511 passengers and crew were abandoning ship.
The foundation said the events that quickly unfolded marked the largest mass rescue operation in U.S. waters in 60 years.
Immediately recognizing the gravity of the situation, Sector San Juan mobilized all available assets. For the next several hours men, women and children embarked from life rafts or made harrowing descents down the vessel’s steep marine evacuation slide system from 50 feet above the waterline — past the hull of the ship, which was so hot from the fire that its paint was blistering and sloughing off — to be met by Coast Guard men and women who pulled them to safety.
“The brave men and women of the Coast Guard are called upon to be ready to act in a moment’s notice,” Coast Guard Foundation president Anne Brengle said in a statement. “Rescues at sea can be in the midst of a frigid Northern storm, or in this case, on a beautiful, calm Caribbean day. These individuals exemplify the professionalism and resolve that make the Coast Guard vital to the safety of our nation.”