MAN OVERBOARD – Sailor Falls Off Navy Ship USS Essex During RIMPAC Exercises

Yesterday I asked what that strange looking vehicle was that landed on Kawaihae Harbor.  Today, I learned first hand what it was and how it is used as I got invited to go out to the US Navy’s High-Tech Transport for the Marines the USS Essex (LHD-2).

I arrived at Kawaihae Harbor around 9:00 in the morning and there was one Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) already at the harbor.

A LCAC with deflated pontoons.

It had already unloaded vehicles that were on a convoy up to Pohakuloa Training Grounds.

After a few minutes and talking to a few folks around the area, I learned that another LCAC was coming in with live ammunition.

A 2nd LCAC arrives

These LCAC are amphibious and can go on both water and land!


Because of the nature of the volatility of ammunition… they really take their time when it comes to loading and unloading it.

After they unloaded the ammunition it was time to go out to the USS Essex which was based about 12 miles off the Big Island.

All Aboard!

After about a 15 minute ride on the LCAC where they allowed me to sit in the bridge, we arrived at the USS Essex and we literally entered the belly of the ship between two pontoons.


Everything was going as planned and all of the drivers of the next convoy came down to the vehicle storage space to prepare to load for the next LCAC departure.


I had slipped on the deck and cut my hand a little bit so I asked to use the bathroom and was escorted up to the upper deck of the ship.  As we were going back down to the lower part of the ship… all these sailors started running around and then the ship came to a sudden stop!

I heard a bunch of military jargon come on over the ships loudspeaker and then by the reaction of all the sailors on the ship… I knew immediately what happened… as a sailor had fallen overboard.

An opening on the ship

I overheard many sailors running around saying “Man Overboard! Man Overboard”… and I knew that this was the real thing and not just a drill as the look on the face of my escort just turned pale and he didn’t know what to tell me other then yes… someone did just fall overboard.

Another opening in the Essex

They have a very set protocol on what happens when a sailor does fall overboard and I later found out that the last time someone fell overboard on the USS Essex was over 12-13 years ago!  I took this one and only picture because I didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the incident until after I took this picture.

Smoke flares helps locate folks who have fallen overboard.

The Navy was obviously well prepared for something like this happening because within just a few minutes after he was in the water…. they had a search and rescue helicopter in the air looking for him as well as boats in the water as well.

It took about 10 minutes to locate him in the water and the helicopter circled overhead and then dropped in a specialist to rescue him from the water.

Unfortunately when they brought him back aboard the ship he was on a gurney and it looked like he may have gotten injured.

Getting ready to leave the ship

I’m pretty sure they really didn’t want something like this happening while someone like myself was on the ship… but hey, things happen and I’m glad they were well prepared for the real thing when it did happen.  That is why you train!!!

In the cargo area of the USS Essex

I was only suppose to be on the Essex for a little while… but with the guy falling overboard… I think I was the last thing they were worried about!  After they located the sailor they loaded up another LCAC with equipment and I got on that one for the journey back to the harbor.

Heading home view from above in the bridge of the LCAC

I’d like to thank the US Navy for giving me this chance to check out the operations going on first-hand.  I’d also like to personally thank Lt. Amber Lewis for the hospitality aboard the ship… and for hooking me up w/ another coin for my collection!

US Navy coin #8!

Here is some general information about the USS Essex:

And here is a bit of history about the Essex:

7 Responses

  1. It wasn’t a sailor that fell overboard; it was an E-7 Marine.

  2. great article Damon, my son completed the hull swap from the Richard to the Essex. I’ll save this article for him,..

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