Project scientists with the Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) Project are deeply saddened to report that a fatal accident occurred over the weekend while they were attempting to recover the ATOC source from Pioneer Seamount. During the operation, equipment being used to lift the sound source from the seafloor failed, and contracted winch operator Ron Hardy of DynCorp, from Virginia Beach, Va., was accidentally killed.
The accident occurred on Sunday, August 6, while using the Navy-owned M/V Independence to recover the ATOC sound source. The source, which weighs roughly 7,500 pounds in seawater, and 12,000 pounds in air, was installed in 1995 at a depth of 940 meters approximately 50 miles west of Half Moon Bay, California. During the recovery operation, the source had been successfully picked up from the seafloor and was being brought up to surface when a piece of recovery equipment failed. Also during the incident, the recovery line being used to raise the source broke, and the transmitter fell back to the seafloor.
Personnel onboard included Dr. Peter Worcester from Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California San Diego. Thankfully, no one else onboard was injured. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of the deceased.
Scientists with the ATOC project are still considering how to proceed, and future plans concerning the recovery of the source remain uncertain at this time.