Some of the Horizon Reliance crew members are pictured aboard the ship after the rescue.


Horizon Reliance Saves 3 in Drama-Filled Rescue


March 2012


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The SIU-crewed Horizon Reliance overcame exceptionally rough nighttime weather to save three individuals, including a 9-year-old boy, whose sailboat became disabled and ultimately sank in the Pacific during the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 8.

“The crew went way beyond anything I could have asked for,” said Bosun Anthony Sabatini a day after the rescue, which took place amid 55-mph wind gusts and waves ranging from 20 to 25 feet. “From top to bottom, the teamwork from the officers and crew was more than I thought possible. We saved lives last night. As they say, the SIU has some of the best-trained crews when it counts.”


In addition to the bosun, the following SIU members were aboard the Horizon Reliance when the rescue took place: AB Tar Ahmed, AB Ahmed Baabbad, AB Rene Rafer, AB Julius Udan, AB Gil Villena, QEE David Watkins, GUDE Adel Irani, EU Cirico Geonanga, OMU Jonas Bocaya, OMU Mervin Cruzat, OMU Ricky Orroyo, Steward/Baker Joseph Laureta, Chief Cook Abdulla Baabbad, SA Hussain Quraish, UA Christopher Johnson and UA Robert Sale.


Also on board were officers from the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots (MM&P).


“We prevailed,” said vessel master Capt. James Kelleher, who commended the entire crew for doing an outstanding job.


The extremely grateful beneficiaries of their efforts are brothers Mitchell and Bradley James (ages 29 and 32, respectively) and Bradley’s son, Wes, all of Canada. They were sailing approximately 280 miles northeast of Hilo, Hawaii, when their 38-foot boat Liahona lost its mast and suffered engine failure. (Their voyage originated weeks earlier in Mexico.) They contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, which relayed the details to the Reliance as the vessel was on its regular run between Los Angeles and Hawaii.


The Reliance then headed for the rescue site some 140 miles away. Arriving after midnight a few hours later as the weather continued to worsen, the Reliance slowly and cautiously maneuvered close to the disabled craft. But, according to the captain’s report, consecutive large waves tossed the sailboat into the 893-foot Reliance, and the boat soon sank.


The three people from the boat, all wearing life vests equipped with lights, started drifting apart as lines and life rings were deployed. With Bosun Sabatini safely harnessed on the Jacobs ladder and AB Rafer (among others) keeping an eye on the other two sailors, Mitchell James grabbed a line and eventually climbed the ladder and was assisted to safety on the main deck. At that time, two hours had elapsed since the Horizon ship arrived.

Another 90 harrowing minutes would pass before the other two survivors were secured. Despite extremely limited visibility, a line to both of them was put in place and they, too, were safely brought aboard.

Wes, the youngest of the trio, was treated for mild hypothermia, but he quickly recovered. He and his father and uncle were given dry clothes, and the galley gang provided them with a hot meal.

Bradley James said that when he first came aboard the Reliance, “It was just a gauntlet of happiness. There were tons of people there, and it was all these grown men and most of us had tears in our eyes…. It’s incredible it turned out the way it did.”


Engine Utility Geonanga said that a combination of schooling at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center and shipboard safety drills paid off. The rescue “really was a scary experience, but it’s a good thing we go through all that training,” he said.


GUDE Irani said, “I feared for the sailors, because the weather was really bad – very windy, rainy, very dark. The swells were huge: between 20-30 feet high.” “We all pulled together and got it done,” added Chief Steward Laureta.

William Hamlin, Horizon Lines senior vice president of operations, stated, “We are thankful the Horizon Reliance was in the right place at the right time to come to the aid of  these individuals. We commend Captain Kelleher and his crew for their skilled seamanship in accomplishing a successful rescue despite very adverse weather conditions.”



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