Overboard Sailor Feared Dead

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A Russian seaman is believed to be dead after he presumably went overboard from a ship operated by Dutch firm Wagenborg. Alexander Merkulov, 56, was discovered missing after the ship he was on was struck by a 10-meter-wave. He has not been found.

The ship, Victoriaborg, was 220 km (137 miles) west of Brest, France, in the Celtic Sea when a 10-meter-high wave unexpectedly struck the vessel at 14:00 on Monday, said Wagenborg spokesman Albert Engelsman. Water rushed through an open door on a rear deck triggering a general alarm that sent the entire crew to the bridge.

The Victoriaborg, a ship operated by Dutch firm Wagenborg (photo: Wagenborg)

Merkulov was missing at the emergency roll call. Crew members searched his quarters, and triggered a mayday alert when neither he nor his work clothes were found.

"Nobody gave the order to the men to go on deck," Engelsman said, adding he did not believe Merkulov had reason to be on the deck unless he was looking for something. "I think he was taken by surprise when the huge wave hit."

The French Coast Guard coordinated a five-hour search effort with support provided by an airplane, but the man was not found. Winds in the area peaked at 120 km/h (75 mph), with seven-meter average waves. Water temperature was estimated at seven or eight degrees Celsius.

It is the third Wagenborg crew member in a month thought to have died after going overboard. Two  when they went overboard during a storm.

The Victoriaborg is headed for Wilmington, Delaware in the U.S.  The Dutch Safety Board is expected to investigate the incident, Engelsman said.

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