BUFFALO, N.Y. — Crews are working around the clock to save USS The Sullivans.
The 78-year-old Fletcher-Class destroyer — which was used in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War — gained national attention Thursday as it started taking on water on the shore of Lake Erie following a "serious hull breach." The Sullivans could be seen listing (tilting in the water) Thursday morning as the rear deck started to go underwater.
Paul Marzello, the president and CEO of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, spoke with 2 On Your Side's Heather Ly Friday morning and provided an update about how rescue efforts are going. Marzello said large diesel pumps were working throughout the night to get water out of the ship. The Sullivans is currently said to be in "stable" condition in its current state.
According to Marzello, more water is pumping out of the ship than is coming in. It's estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of water is being pumped out of the ship per minute.
"The ship will float again if we get enough water off of her," Marzello said.
The Naval Park is still working on finding a temporary fix. At this time, Marzello says the ship is still top heavy towards starboard (the right side), adding that the Naval Park may need to pull the ship back to port. As the water level rises, Marzello said the concern is to make sure that The Sullivans can be pushed upright in a "responsible way."
"There are a lot of concerns, that's why we have the Coast Guard and the Navy working closely with us. We also have an environmental crew," Marzello said.
Marzello says divers from BIDCO Marine Group have been going through The Sullivans compartment to compartment to make sure water has been removed from each area, and that it's not filling back in.
"We're being very careful and strategic in making sure that we can go step by step throughout the ship making sure if we de-water a compartment that it's not going to come back in and set us back again," Marzello said. "With that, the plan is to keep these pumps on, manage the water in a responsible manner that is coming off."
It's unclear at this time what caused The Sullivans to take on water so quickly. Marzello said the plan is to have drivers go into the water to find out the exact cause. It was suspected that the weather may have played a factor.
"We don't know if it's a puncture or a seam, or something that may be more dangerous than just a small hole," Marzello said.
It's also unclear how much the repairs will cost.
To date, over $1 million has been raised to help "Save the Sullivans" after the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park reported that the hull was damaged. Work began last summer to prevent the ship from sinking but crews were forced to stop in October with roughly 20% of the job complete at that point. Lake Erie had gotten too cold for work to continue. The cooler temperatures prevented the adhesive (that was being used to repair the damage) from working properly.
BIDCO was originally scheduled to resume repair work on April 18, before The Sullivans began taking on water. Marzello estimates that roughly $300,000 was spent on those initial repairs from last year.
"We still have the majority of that money yet to spend on doing the preservation aspects of that hull. We did not anticipate what is occurring in the last 48 hours," Marzello said.
He added, "We're going to take this day by day. We certainly appreciate all the amazing support that's coming in from not just Western New York but all over the country, and several countries, to make sure that this ship stays afloat."
Marzello said the Naval Park is working on a strategic plan that they hope to release to the public soon.
"I think everyone here, including our board of directors, is unified in that we will not give up this ship. We have made the mantra that we're not going to give up the ship and failure is not an option."
At this time, the other ships at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park are closed to the public.