VideoRay LLC has provided two Pro 4 ROV systems for the rescue and recovery operation of the ferry Sewol which sunk off the coast of Jindo Island, South Korea last Wednesday. The ROVs are currently searching for bodies or possible survivors on the sea floor around the ferry as well as inside the hull and interior areas that divers cannot access.
Upon learning of the accident VideoRay volunteered equipment and resources to the rescue effort. VideoRay mobilized two experts to South Korea to assist with the extremely dangerous and difficult job of removing victims of the ferry disaster: Mark Fleming, a San Diego-based VideoRay employee with years of Navy diving experience, and Dave Phillips, a VideoRay consultant and undersheriff of the St. Louis County, MN Sheriff’s Office.
The VideoRay Pro 4 ROV’s small size, portability, and powerful performance in high currents are crucial benefits in the Sewol rescue efforts, where water conditions are challenging. Divers can only work in the cold water and rapid currents for a few minutes before exhaustion overcomes them. Near-zero water visibility makes it difficult for divers to get a clear picture of the wreck. VideoRay ROVs use state-of-the-art camera and sonar to see through the murky water.
VideoRay ROVs are often used in shipwreck accidents to recover victims, and to assist divers and keep them safer. The small ROVs can dive to depths up to 305 meters (1,000 feet) and remain there for days, providing video, lighting, and sonar information to guide divers and topside rescue and recovery personnel. Recent examples include the Costa Concordia salvage operation in Giglio, Italy, where VideoRays have been used for thousands of hours, and the Princess of the Stars ferry accident in the Philippines where over 800 passengers and crew died.
Independent VideoRay consultant and expert shipwreck responder Steve Van Meter, of Cocoa, Florida, commented on the use of VideoRays on the Sewol operation, saying: “I can only imagine the challenges both divers and ROV operators must face there. Currents are reported to be in excess of 5 knots, with visibility less than 20 centimeters. In these conditions, it is extremely fortunate that no divers have been injured or killed. VideoRays can go places divers cannot, but they are also invaluable to save bottom time, provide pre-dive information, and provide illumination and direction on site. They are my tool of choice on most jobs, and I’m proud to have worked closely with VideoRay for years.”
Located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, VideoRay LLC is the oldest Micro ROV company and largest volume producer of underwater ROVs in the world. Operations in South Korea are being directed by KCL Trading Company, a VideoRay dealer based in Kyunggi-Do, South Korea.
As of Tuesday morning, rescuers have recovered 104 bodies from the wreck and continue searching for the 198 people still missing. Of the 476 passengers, only 174 were rescued from the sinking ferry.