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Training suspended on Gorch Fock after sailor's death

The Local · 19 Nov 2010, 10:43

Published: 19 Nov 2010 10:43 GMT+01:00

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The spokesperson for fleet command in Glücksburg, Jan Ströhmer, told broadcaster NDR that 70 other officer candidates who had been training on the three-mast barque would fly home to Germany in the coming week.

The decision was made in consideration of the crew’s morale after their 25-year-old shipmate’s death. The sailor from Lower Saxony fell during a climbing exercise in the Brazilian port of Salvador de Bahia, crashing from the vessel’s rigging onto the deck and dying of her injuries in a nearby hospital, the navy said.

They will continue their training at the academy in Flensburg, Ströhmer said.

Meanwhile military officials plan to review the ship’s training protocols, he added.

Training on the ship is set to resume in September 2011.

The young Holzminden woman's death was the sixth on board the ship since it was built in 1958. She had been in the German military for three-and-a-half years and belonged to the Mürwik naval academy in Flensburg.

The Gorch Fock set sail from Kiel on August 20 for a training mission in South America set to be the longest in the ship’s history.

Story continues below…

The last deadly accident on the ship occurred in September 2008, when another female officer candidate, 18, fell overboard during her night watch on the North Sea.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:16 November 19, 2010 by mixxim
It used to be said that women on (sailing) ships are unlucky....
16:10 November 19, 2010 by Garth Rex
Clearly the answer lies in MUCH greater attention to safety and accident prevention! SIX accidental deaths are intolerable, unless one does not value the lives of young Germans.

This is NOT the age of sailing ships, therefore it is rediculous and unconscionable for young sailors to be risking - and losing - their lives by having to climb the rigging of a sailing ship in 2010. In no way does such training prepare the young sailors for the realities of naval service in the modern German navy.

Safety belts and harnesses should be strictly required...to prevent such accidents.

The Gorch Fock is, of course, supremely beautiful, but also inherently hazardous for the crew. Training on a MODERN warship would probably be far more SAFER, INTELLIGENT...AND RELEVANT to the year 2010 and beyond!
19:33 November 19, 2010 by coot
The German-language story that I read says that they wear climbing harnesses while aloft, but not while climbing up/down because there are large numbers of crew members all going up/down the mast at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised that they are wearing harnesses at all, because that was not standard procedure during the age of sail.

The point of the training is not to operate the ship, but to work effectively as a crew under the orders of a commander. This kind of ship requires a large number of people working cooperatively. There are over 200 on Gorch Fock. A modern (and larger) container ship might need only 10 crew, who mostly act alone -- not what you need for practice to be a soldier.

You can wonder if there might be safer or more effective training methods, but it would be naive to think you could know for sure based on this one article.

p.s. 6 accidental deaths in the history of the ship. Is that a lot? How many on other ships? How many driving cars/trucks? How many from other kinds of accidents?
21:42 November 21, 2010 by Bruce Kuehn
Having been a member of an all volunteer tall ship crew in Galveston, Texas for 21 years and having run a youth program (ages 11 to 18) on board our ship for 14 years, I can attest that there is no better leadership training than that on board a sailing ship. There are some risks that have to be taken to gain any benefit, but risks can be minimized.

I don't know what the climbing policies are for GORCH FOCK but on ELISSA, we are required to wear climbing harnesses at all times while our feet are not on deck. Unfortunately, you can only "clip in" when you are at the position where you are actually working. It is impossible to be secured when you are in the process of getting there. We undergo rigorous training about how to climb, what to hold on to, how to communicate with other climbers, what we should and shouldn't clip into and when to clip in. We have a basic strength test that must be passed at least once a year before being allowed to climb.

We also permit climbing in stages. Climbers are taught the basics then are escorted aloft by experienced climbers. They are shown how to get out onto the yards where most of our work is done. After they've shown that they are safe on the lower 3 yards, they are allowed to be checked out as "high climbers" enabling them to climb to the top of ELISSA's 90 foot masts and the two highest yards. In our youth program, climbing rules are even more strict than those in the general adult crew. Probably unlike a military training vessel, we maintain an environment such that if for any reason someone is not comfortable climbing, (be it health, injury, fatigue or even just a "bad feeling") we encourage them to stay on deck.

In the 28 years since ELISSA's restoration, no one has died from a fall aloft. The only recorded death on ELISSA was a 14 year old apprentice who died from a relatively short fall in 1897. All of us that climb on ELISSA intend to make sure he is the only one we ever lose.

I know full well how tight knit a community a sailing ship crew is. We have lost shipmates to illnesses and auto accidents so we know how horrible it is to lose a member of your crew. They leave a hole that will never be filled. So my heart and prayers go out to the crew and trainees of GORCH FOCK. We hope that they will come back stronger than ever next fall.
13:55 November 27, 2010 by Michael Keohane
Some of the comments????....... are not well wwell said....anyway I come from a long line of sailors. Nobody mentioned any medical issues. My father sufferered from TIAs all his life, in the beginning not obvious, later yes. I was present at sea and in cars when we had some terrible accidents, and thought how could experience cause this accident. Now I write about a TIA....What is the cause of a transient ischaemic attack?

In most cases, a TIA is caused by a tiny blood clot that becomes stuck in a small blood vessel (artery) in the brain. This blocks the blood flow, and a part of the brain is starved of oxygen. The affected part of the brain is without oxygen for just a moment, and soon recovers. This is because the blood clot either breaks up quickly, or nearby blood vessels are able to compensate. TIAs can defeat the toughest of medical tests. So I would not like to judge any accident. That ship the SSS Gorch Fockis is well run to the best of my knowledge and experience. Accidents do happen in life, and the best of safety practices will only reduce the odds of an accident not prevent it. It is also harder to sail a tall ship today compared to the experience of the old Jack Tars of the seas. But they had accidents and loss too.
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