Seafarer’s Quick Actions Extinguish Shipboard Fire


May 2018


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Quick thinking and safety training recently paid off for a first-on-the-scene SIU member and his shipmates.


AB Leo Onofrio extinguished a small fire aboard the M/V Patriot on March 29 while the vessel was docked in Manzanillo, Panama. Other crew members quickly followed up to help ensure the fire indeed was out and the damage contained.


The Patriot is operated by TOTE Services for vessel owner American Roll-On/Roll-Off Carrier (ARC). A communication from an ARC executive credited Onofrio’s “quick thinking and decisive action extinguishing the fire, (which) prevented a small fire from possibly spreading to other cargo.” That same message indicated the problem began with an electric short in a recently loaded new vehicle.


Onofrio graduated from the apprentice program at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center in 2012. He said the safety training he received at the Piney Point, Maryland-based school “absolutely” helped him during the Patriot incident.


“I followed the steps I learned from my training,” he said.


Onofrio said he was walking on deck 13 “when I noticed a vehicle making a hissing sound, followed by a popping noise. The vehicle then began to smoke and ignited.


“I immediately notified the mate on watch about the fire and proceeded to approach the flaming vehicle with a fire extinguisher,” he continued. “I utilized the extinguisher on the flames by spraying the hood of the vehicle and noticed fire coming from under the engine. I began to spray from below and through the wheel well to extinguish the fire. As soon as it was out, I began to back out of the space that had filled with smoke. The chief mate arrived followed by the fire team. I exited the space and got some much-needed fresh air.”


Onofrio’s main takeaway from the experience is that “anything can happen at any moment. We always have to be prepared,” he noted.


The Galloway, New Jersey, native also was quick to credit his fellow Seafarers and the AMO members aboard the Patriot. “My shipmates responded immediately and everyone worked together to assure the ship’s safety,” he concluded.


Chief Mate Pieter Sheridan stated, “Leo responded in an unparalleled act of focus and clarity. He immediately notified the Officer on Watch and attacked the car fire with a local fire extinguisher. I entered the space within two minutes of Leo’s report and the cargo hold was already filling with smoke. I am confident without Leo’s quick decision making, this fire could have been much worse. I think I speak for all onboard the Patriot – we are grateful for Leo’s actions and training.”



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