Corps dredge crews support U.S. Coast Guard mission

The dredge Yaquina passes through the jetties June 16, as it enters the Siuslaw River near Florence, Oregon. The ship was conducting routine maintenance on the federal navigation channel when they responded to a request for assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s not uncommon for the dredge to respond to emergencies; her crew practices man overboard drills and trains regularly to rescue people from the water. (Corps of Engineers photo)

The dredge Yaquina passes through the jetties June 16, as it enters the Siuslaw River near Florence, Oregon. The ship was conducting routine maintenance on the federal navigation channel when they responded to a request for assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s not uncommon for the dredge to respond to emergencies; her crew practices man overboard drills and trains regularly to rescue people from the water. (Corps of Engineers photo)


By Michelle Helms, Public Affairs Office

While it doesn’t happen every day, it’s not unusual for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges to assist in an emergency. Recently both the Yaquina and Essayons were called on to support the U.S. Coast Guard in search and rescue missions in Oregon and Alaska.

Yaquina Captain Mark Keen says crews typically respond to reports of sinking or capsized boats. For instance, in 2012, crewmembers rescued a kayaker who was in the water after waves flipped his boat near a jetty.

Not an ordinary call for help

The call from the Coast Guard to the Yaquina on June 15 was different.

“The Coast Guard called the dredge and informed us that they had a report of a small plane crashing into the ocean just north of the North Jetty at the Siuslaw River,” said Keen. “We got the rescue crew and lookouts ready and headed that way.”

It was low tide and the Yaquina was about four miles from the crash site, waiting for the tide to come in to resume work on the channel. The ship immediately headed toward the site. A Coast Guard lifeboat from Siuslaw Station arrived just two minutes ahead of the Yaquina; a Coast Guard helicopter arrived shortly after.

“The plane was pretty close to the shore so we couldn’t get in real close,” said Keen. “We sit high in the water, and they asked us to steam back and forth along the crash area and assist in the search.”

Keen said they saw wreckage floating in the water, but did not see any victims.

A June 16 news release from the Lane County Sheriff’s office said the body of Richard Munger of Florence, Oregon, was recovered June 15 by the Coast Guard. His grandson, 15-year-old Benjamin Dressler of Washington was also on board the plane. A Seattle Times story dated June 18 states Dressler’s body was not recovered but authorities believe he, too, died in the crash.

Crews always ready to assist

The Essayons and her crew were dredging the Cook Inlet, Alaska, June 7, when the Coast Guard was called to rescue three people from a sinking 16-foot riverboat. Captain Jeffrey McDonald immediately launched the rescue boat manned by boat operator Derrick Pinetti and rescue swimmer Ryan Mhyr. They arrived at the scene just ahead of the Anchorage Fire Department vessel whose crew rescued a father, two children and a puppy from the sinking boat. Alaska State Troopers were standing by to assist in the rescue.

“This case demonstrates both the value of teamwork with our partner agencies and the importance of wearing a lifejacket whenever you’re underway,” said Cmdr. Shawn Decker, chief of response, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. The Coast Guard thanks the Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage Fire Department and the crew of the Essayons for their assistance in this incident.”

The dredge crews’ ability to respond and provide assistance to partner agencies is due to their own commitment to safety. Their work takes them into areas where it would be easy for someone to fall overboard; the crews practice man overboard drills and train regularly to rescue people from the water.

View of the Siuslaw north jetty from the dredge Yaquina. (Corps of Engineers photo)

View of the Siuslaw north jetty from the dredge Yaquina. (Corps of Engineers photo)