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The Golden Ray wreck pictured in St. Simons Sound, Georgia in October 2019. St. Simons Sound Incident Response Command

Coast Guard Presents Public Service Awards for Heroic Actions During Golden Ray Capsizing

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3944
November 29, 2023

In a ceremony held at the Southeast Georgia Conference Center on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard honored maritime partners for their commendable actions during the M/V Golden Ray capsizing and subsequent response.

The capsizing occurred off the coast of St. Simons Island, Georgia, on September 8, 2019.

The public service awards were presented to individuals from Moran Towing, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Brunswick Pilots, recognizing the heroic efforts that resulted in the preservation of lives and the mitigation of environmental hazards and economic impacts during the Golden Ray capsizing and grounding in St. Simon’s Sound.

“The bravery, heroism, and skill displayed by the Coast Guard’s Seventh District maritime partners, who stepped in quickly to save lives and prevent further damage following the Golden Ray’s capsizing in 2019, is commendable,” said U.S. Representative Buddy Carter, Georgia’s 1st District in presenting the awards. “Moran Towing, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Brunswick Harbor Pilots are more than deserving of this award and recognition.”

Captain Jonathan K. Tennant, a pilot aboard the Golden Ray during the incident, received the prestigious Meritorious Public Service Award for his sound decision making and decisive actions.

Rear Adm. Douglas Schofield, commander, Coast Guard Seventh District expressed his gratitude to the first responders from the Georgia maritime community for their professionalism, teamwork, and prompt response to the capsizing.

“Today is a mere glimpse into the incredibly selfless commitment to service embodied by the men and women of Moran Towing, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Brunswick Pilots, and the Coast Guard during the incident,” said Schofield.

Golden Ace Roro Car Ship Salvage
The heavy-lift vessel VB10,000 arrives at the Golden Ray wreck site on Oct. 27, 2020. Photo: St. Simons Sound Incident Command

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the incident was caused by human error that led to inaccurate stability calculations. According to the NTSB report, the Golden Ray experienced a rapid heel to port during a turn to starboard shortly after departing the Port of Brunswick with  4,100 vehicles loaded inside. Despite efforts to correct the heel, the vessel grounded outside of the channel at a 60-degree port heel within a minute.

The NTSB determined that the capsizing was caused by the chief officer’s error in entering ballast quantities into the stability calculation program, resulting in an incorrect determination of the vessel’s stability and insufficient righting arm during the turn.

All 23 crewmembers and one pilot on board were rescued, including four engineering crew who were trapped for nearly 40 hours due to flooding caused by open watertight doors. Two crewmembers sustained serious injuries.

The NTSB said damages from the accident were around $200 million, including the total loss of the vessel and $142 million worth of cargo.

Wreck removal took more than two years and involving cutting the wreck into sections for removal using the heavy lift barge VB-10000.

Presented the Coast Guard Public Service Commendation were:

  • Captain Benjamin B. Brooks, Moran Towing
  • Corporal Jonny “Jay” Bright, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
  • Sergeant Mark Carson, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
  • Connor Deaton, Moran Towing
  • Skyler D. Dionne, Moran Towing
  • Captain Jerry Donnelly, Moran Towing
  • David Fuller, Moran Towing
  • Captain Clifton C. Gorden, Moran Towing
  • Zachary Griffis, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
  • Brett H. Hannon, Moran Towing
  • Steven C. Lee, Moran Towing
  • Captain Clint Price, Moran Towing
  • Christopher Russom, Moran Towing
  • Thomas “Colte” Shaske, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
  • James Stoddard, Moran Towing
  • Daniel Underwood, Moran Towing
  • Trenton Underwood, Moran Towing
  • Ricky W. Williams, Moran Towing

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