Wednesday, February 24, 2010
EUTAWVILLE, S.C. – “Just get ‘em before the sharks get ‘em.”
That’s what Hutch Holseberg, 45, of Eutawville says was replaying over and over in his mind as he and four other men from South Carolina rescued nine Haitians Saturday about 30 miles offshore of Eleuthera, Bahamas.
Holseberg, along with his father, Fred Holseberg, 80, of Eutawville, and three friends from Goose Creek – Capt. Jimmy McCormick, Richard Haddock and John Hodson – made up the five-man fishing party that was hoping to catch a few tuna about 10 miles offshore of Eleuthera. It was Saturday, Feb. 20. The water was calm; the weather was nice.
But something was amiss. Hutch Holseberg said one of their crewmen noticed smoke and fire in the distance.
“I knew it had to be offshore,” he said.
As the crew headed toward the scene, Fred Holseberg, with the aid of binoculars, determined the smoke was coming from a ship 10 miles away.
“I didn’t know if it was a cruise ship or what is was off burning,” the elder Holseberg said.
The crew radioed for help to alert nearby vessels or emergency rescuers to respond to the site and, in the meantime, they continued toward the burning ship, Fred said.
“We were first on the scene,” he said.
The 96-foot cargo ship was fully engulfed in flames, and the ship’s contents were a total loss, he said.
Hutch said debris was floating around the burning ship and he saw and heard propane gas cylinders exploding aboard the vessel.
Also onboard were a couple of vehicles, he said. The ship was headed from Nassau, Bahamas to Haiti, he said.
The South Carolina fishermen noticed seven men in a dinghy, but the dinghy had a hole in it and was sinking, Hutch said. Another of the cargo ship’s crew was wearing a life jacket to stay afloat and another was attempting to stay buoyant using a suitcase, he said.