Search suspended for man who went overboard near Cape Charles

(Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

CAPE CHARLES, Va. (WAVY) —  A search was suspended late Tuesday morning for a man who went missing from an anchored cargo ship near Cape Charles.

U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders were alerted around 2:10 a.m. that a 33-year-old Chinese man fell overboard from the 770-foot ship Lara Venture at the Cape Charles Anchorage.

Officials say the man was fastening a ladder nicknamed “Jason’s Ladder” when he fell. He did not have a life jacket on, and was last seen wearing orange coveralls and a dark blue jacket.

A Jayhawk helicopter crew from Elizabeth City was dispatched overnight to search along with the Cutter Sea Horse from Portsmouth. Officials say a helicopter squadron from Naval Station Norfolk was expected to join the search.

Daylight showed just how rough the water was in Cape Charles. Harbor Master Charlie Farlow got to work at 7 a.m. He told 10 On Your Side that he didn’t know what, but knew something had happened.

“The Coast Guard was leaving here with their lights on so I knew something was up,” he said. “When they’re leaving here with their lights on it’s usually something significant.”

Farlow said he heard the search from his office.

“They were describing what they were seeing. They noticed some orange balls in the water and they were most likely a gill net, fishing gear,” he explained.

The color orange possibly significant because the crewman was last seen wearing orange coveralls.

Farlow said he heard searchers looking for the man along the shoreline, but he know that with water temperatures in the low 40s things would be difficult for everyone involved.

“It’s rough and it’s a pretty hard feat to accomplish, especially since they’re searching for almost like a needle in a haystack,” Farlow said. “Probably his chances are very slim.”

Farlow also showed 10 On Your Side a ship finder app that can pinpoint the location of certain vessels.

He said it shows the Lara Venture anchored not far from shore.

According to the app, the Lara Venture cargo ship was built in 2011 and last ported in Norfolk.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Corrinne Zilnicki tells the search was suspended at 10 a.m. for the man who fell off of it.

According to a news release, a Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and the crews of Coast Guard Cutter Sea Horse and Station Cape Charles searched for approximately 12 hours. The search area covered about 112 square miles.

Also assisting in the search was the Navy helicopter squadron HSC2 from Chambers Field on Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, and a Virginia Pilot Association boat crew.

“Suspending a search is one of the most difficult choices we have to make in the Coast Guard, and several factors – water temperature, weather conditions, and length of time the person has been missing – inform the decision,” said Coast Guard Capt. Rick Wester, commander, Sector Hampton Roads said in a news release. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to the sailor’s family and fellow crewmen.”