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CARGO SHIP OVERTURNS NEAR GEORGIA PORT, 4 CREW MEMBERS MISSING

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Four crew members are unaccounted for after a large cargo ship overturned and caught fire near a major port in Georgia early yesterday.

The Coast Guard’s Seventh District said on Twitter that it was joined by agencies with “multiple rescue assets” on the scene after the Golden Ray cargo vessel was “listing heavily” near St. Simons Sound in Brunswick, Georgia.

The Coast Guard said there were 23 crew members and one pilot on board. All but four crew members have been safely evacuated from the ship, a 656-foot vehicle carrier.

The ship was leaving Brunswick when it drastically leaned to its side early yesterday.  The Coast Guard said it was notified by a 911 call at about 2 a.m. of a capsized vessel in the sound.

Capt. John Reed, commander of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said rescuers noticed that smoke and flames began to appear as they approached the scene, and assessed the situation to be “too risky” to go inside to locate the four missing crew members.

Reed said the fire was observed off the ship’s starboard side area of the cargo and produced black smoke. In the hours since the ship tipped over, the smoke has ceased but officials have not yet determined the fire has been extinguished.

Cmdr. Norm Witt, Commander of Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Savannah, said the incident remains under investigation, and so far the stricken ship does not appear to be a pollution hazard to area waterways. Officials, however, are putting together a pollution mitigation plan in case something changes.

The Port of Brunswick is currently closed to vessel traffic, with an established emergency safety zone in St. Simons Sound. Vessels are not authorized within a half-mile of the Golden Ray, which was lying on its side.

The Port of Brunswick is a major deep water port in Georgia, which is comprised of three terminals that makes up the facility, according to the Georgia Ports Authority.

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