BM3 Obendorf’s Death

Navy times has a story reporting the findings of a Coast Guard investigation regarding the death of BM3 Obendorf during small boat ops aboard the cutter Waesche. Some notable elements:

“He was in an area where crew members aren’t supposed to be stationed, according to the report, but was there because a piece of rescue equipment wasn’t working properly.”

Witness accounts said Obendorf was trapped twice by the net (emphasis applied-Chuck), but was uninjured the first time. He wasn’t supposed to be standing at the front of the boat during the passenger transfer, but Waesche’s crew had been placing someone in that position to overcome an equipment deficiency.”

“Waesche’s capture line never worked consistently, so the crew put a member at the front of the boat to connect it manually.”

“…the conditions Nov. 11 didn’t strike any of the key personnel as dangerous. However, they were operating outside of published safety limits…”

—Another Example of perhaps to much “can do” spirit?

12 thoughts on “BM3 Obendorf’s Death

  1. Hi Chuck,

    Hope you’re well. Hey, I’m leaving FierceHomelandSecurity at the end of this week to go work at Politico (where, unfortunately, I won’t cover the Coast Guard). FierceHomelandSecurity will continue to exist, but if there’s any USCG pdf documents that we’ve posted online that you think might be worth keeping, I’d encourage you to start hosting them on your own blog’s server. They won’t be taken down immediately from our site, of course, but who knows what’s the long-term future of that publication?

    I’ve enjoyed your posts over the last few years; I found a lot of insight into them. Best, Dave

  2. One thing mentioned in the public report was that the Waesche crew knew the latching system was broken. The report noted some 138 “successful” landings using the same unauthorized technique. I suppose the old saw about not doing something but being able to get away with what you did do applies.

    There used to be an excellent USN Ordnance Pamphlet (OP) 1014. It described ordnance accidents and their causes. This little volume had a large impact on my safety thinking. One story from WWII. It appears an Army fella found a Japanese 60mm mortar round. Sitting in his tent, he decided to use the round as a dart. Witnesses said he made six successful throws at a knothole on the tent floor boards. Then he made the seventh toss. . . .

    The only major incident I saw with the old style davits was when the entire forward davit broke and collapsed rearward. No one was hurt and they all learned what the monkey lines were for.

  3. Have you noticed in the past couple years, when anything is mentioned in the CG, it is never port or starboard but left and right. In this article, they say front and back. What the heck is that all about? On T.V., they’ll introduce the pilot or boatswain as the driver. I never see that happen to the Navy. No wonder we can’t escape some of the mean spirited comments.

    • This is just my opinion but I believe it to be from the association with the marine inspector side of the Coast Guard and not the naval side. Of course, common language is used for legal purposes. I was once told that the public does not understand the different in an air and light port in the naval sense but do understand ‘porthole’ even if it is not a hole at all. I doubt many in the Coast Guard today would know what ‘larboard’ means either much less garboard.

      The primary point is the Coast Guard has decided to remove jargon from its official reports for ease of understanding. There is some sense in this. Most historians I know try to avoid jargon unless necessary for a technical application.

      The nation is far less nautical minded than it was a century or more ago. I collect cutter construction proposals from the 18th and 19th centuries and I doubt that even the brightest of our contemporary Coast Guard marine engineers would understand the terminology used in the proposals.

      The use of left and right for port and starboard is just a means to simplify the language of the reports. However, I would put a endnote in the report to explain this and give the proper terms.

      • I like your explanation of my question. I suppose I am concerned due to the fact all of the crew at the coffee table are mostly ex-Navy and they like to throw some digs. We do have one exception. Two Coasties came in to McDonalds and were sitting eating their lunch when a ex-Navy man told them to get in a real service. With a slight pause, one raised his head and replied, “I already served eight yrs in the real Navy.”

  4. “Petty Officer Obendorf’s selfless actions directly contributed to rescuing five mariners in distress,” Waesche commander Capt. John McKinley said in a news release.

    With the recent announcement of naming a future FRC for DC3 Bruckenthal, will BM3 Obendorf receive the same type of naming honor?

  5. Pingback: Coast Guard concludes inquiry into death of CG crewmember in rescue of ALASKA MIST

  6. Pingback: Navy Loses a Helicopter, Two Dead | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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