Charleston fire boat damaged while responding to Navy crash in Charleston Harbor

ANDREW KNAPP/STAFF -- April 14, 2013 -- The crew of a Charleston fire boat, left, gets help from North Charleston firefighters early Sunday morning after the Charleston boat struck something in Charleston Harbor while responding to a distress call from a Navy vessel. Buy this photo

When a Navy patrol boat ran aground in Charleston Harbor late Saturday, city firefighters set out in the department’s new boat to help rescue three injured sailors.

But half an hour after the Navy vessel’s distress call, the firefighters had to issue one of their own. The 36-foot boat had struck something in the water. It was disabled and started taking on water.

None of the crew members from the Charleston Fire Department’s Engine 111 was hurt. Two of them hopped on another boat and continued to the scene of the Navy crash, as the rest stayed aboard the craft that was later towed to shore in downtown Charleston.

Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh said that several agencies effectively culled their efforts to handle both wrecks.

“Multiple resources were able to come together in order to take care of our emergency responders,” he said.

The situation started to unfold at 10:14 p.m., when the 34-foot Navy patrol boat struck the harbor’s south jetty, according to a U.S. Coast Guard dispatcher.

Three of the five-sailor crew were hurt, though the extent of their injuries was not immediately known. Their boat took on water.

A Coast Guard helicopter airlifted one of the injured off the crippled boat to Medical University Hospital, while Guardsmen transported the other two by watercraft.

It’s unknown what led to the accident or what came of the Navy boat.

A North Charleston Fire Department boat tethered to the Charleston fire vessel escorted it 4 miles to its launch site near the southern end of Concord Street.

After the boat was put in a dry dock around 1 a.m., Julazadeh said the fire department would examine the damage and try to figure out what it had hit. The object was not lighted, Julazadeh said.

The accident marks the second time that the $850,000 boat, named the Louis Behrens, has fallen out of service for repairs since it was christened in November. Electronics malfunctions sidelined the vessel for a week in January.

North Charleston firefighters brought a pumping system to halt water from overcoming the boat and prevent further damage, the fire marshal said.

“It was taking on water,” Julazadeh said. “It wasn’t very severe. It was still afloat.”

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, city police officers, the Charleston County Volunteer Rescue Squad and county paramedics also pitched in on the rescue efforts.

But the hubbub unfolded without much notice among people in downtown Charleston.

A man in a tuxedo sang at Waterfront Park. A man in plainer clothes sold sweetgrass roses. A giggling couple smiled as they photographed themselves in front of a water fountain.


Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

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