April 25th 2012 was a bad day. One of my colleagues was reported lost at sea and after at least 24 hours of searching over 750 square miles of the cold waters of the western north Atlantic, the official search was discontinued “pending further developments“. A mariner with 30 years experience on boats of all kinds, a hawsepiper who climbed the ladder and made Captain, gone.
We know what “overboard” means and we’ve been trained to know what happens. We understand the effects of cold water and the shock of entry. We’ve been taught methods of self rescue and had safety rules and procedures drilled into our heads, but the one thing that persists is the reluctance and complacent behavior of not wearing a PFD out on deck. Most guys don’t consider a quick step out on deck to be a dangerous practice, but the evidence to the contrary is compelling. It could have been as simple as something catching his eye and he went to adjust, tie-down or secure something and he was swept by a wave or slipped and lost a handhold. We won’t ever know for sure, it happened out of sight of his crew perhaps an hour or more before his absence was noted.
It’s a sad day for his family. Already saddened by their loss and because the search for him was unsuccessful, those left behind face an emotional and legal battle to find closure.
I along with his brother and sister mariners wish to send Captain O’Leary’s family our sincere and heartfelt condolences.