US and Colombian navy and coast guard personnel intercepted a drug-smuggling fiberglass low-profile go-fast vessel (LPGFV) which caught fire during the high speed chase.
The operation took place earlier this month and involved the US Coast Guard’s air and marine operations P-3 aircraft, US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr (PC 8) and the Colombian Navy ship ARC “07 de Agosto”.
Over 1,000 pounds of cocaine were seized during the Eastern Pacific Ocean operation.
The custom made ocean-going, high-speed motor boat built by drug traffickers was detected by the P-3 aircraft despite its low radar signature.
The P-3 crew reported the LPGFV to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which vectored the Zephyr to make the interdiction.
As the Zephyr changed its course to intercept the vessel, the suspected smugglers allegedly began jettisoning their cargo and jumped into the water as their boat caught on fire.
A coast guard law-enforcement team in an interceptor boat launched from the Zephyr interdicted the LPGFV, rescued four suspected smugglers and transferred them to the Zephyr. The coast guard and Zephyr crews extinguished the fire aboard the LPGFV after fighting it for approximately 90 minutes.
“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” said Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, the commanding officer of the Zephyr.
After the fire was extinguished, a Coast Guard law-enforcement team with members from both Maritime Safety and Security Team 91112 based in New Orleans, and the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team based in San Diego, recovered approximately 1,080 pounds of suspected cocaine from the LPGFV.
During the recovery, the “07 de Agosto” arrived on scene to work with the Coast Guard law enforcement team to document the case. This case marks the first drug interdiction for MSST New Orleans after becoming a pursuit-designated unit in July 2017.
The LPGFV was severely damaged by the fire and was subsequently sunk as a hazard to navigation.