ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Only 10 minutes elapsed from when a cargo ship began listing in rough seas until it was almost lying on its side, giving the crew little time to send out a distress signal, according to a volunteer who spoke with some of those rescued by helicopter.

The 23 crew members were hoisted Monday night into two National Guard Pave Hawk helicopters and a Coast Guard chopper, then flown 230 miles north to Adak Island.

The crew were cut and bruised, thirsty and ravenous when they arrived on the Alaska island, their muscles deeply strained from hours spent clinging to a ship that abruptly leaned into the North Pacific.

“These guys are thrilled right now,” nurse practitioner Michael Terry said Tuesday from a clinic on Adak Island. “They feel so fortunate, so grateful things weren’t worse.”

A 41-year-old man from Myanmar with a broken ankle was flown to Anchorage, where he was listed in good condition Tuesday, authorities said. The rest of the Cougar Ace’s crew arrived later Tuesday in Anchorage.

Crew members have been instructed not to discuss the matter, the ship’s captain, Nyi Nyi Tun, said through a clinic worker. Officials with the ship’s owner planned to interview them Wednesday, a spokesman said.

The Singapore-flagged Cougar Ace – owned by Tokyo-based Mitsui O.S.K. Lines – was carrying nearly 5,000 vehicles from Japan to Vancouver, British Columbia, said Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for the ship owner.

He said Tuesday the company was in talks with a salvage company, discussing several options for saving the vessel. It still wasn’t clear what had caused the ship to list.

The ship was caught in rain squalls and 8- to 10-foot seas when it began to list. From Coast Guard aircraft circling overhead, officers spotted a 2-mile oil sheen in the choppy water. The ship was carrying 430 metric tons of fuel oil or 112 metric tons of diesel fuel, and it wasn’t clear how much had spilled into the sea.

AP-ES-07-25-06 2152EDT


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