10 Feb 2011

US Coast Guard rejects claim it denied help to stricken trawler

7:32 pm on 10 February 2011

Earlier claims that the US Coast Guard denied a request to assist the crew of the fishing trawler, the Betty C, on which two men had died, have been dismissed.

An agent for the owners of the Kiribati registered vessel had said the US Coast Guard turned down a call to medivac one of the victims, as it was not close to land.

A 24 year-old from Ecuador died instantly when a power block collapsed on crew members while they were reeling in a catch of about 100 tonnes and another man, from Peru, died the next day.

A spokesman from the Coast Guard in Honolulu, Anthony Soto, says it received a call from the captain of the ship saying two men needed medical treatment and the matter was referred to the Fiji Coast Guard.

"We passed the information, what was going on to the rescue co-ordination centre in Fiji. And in the meantime we also monitored the situation. The reason that we passed the information to the rescue co-ordination centre in Fiji was because the US Coast Guard didn't have any search and rescue assets in that area."

Anthony Soto says the vessel is now in American Samoa and the local coast guard is investigating the incident.