Immersion Suit Flotation Testing REACT Report
COAST GUARD NEW LONDON CT NEW LONDON United States
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After the October 2015 sinking of the SS EL FARO with loss of life, a Coast Guard CG Marine Board of Investigation MBI reviewed why searchers could not relocate the remains of a victim in an immersion suit. A board member requested CG Research and Development Center RDC help in determining the extent of previous immersion suit experiments separate from the testing requirements in 46 CFR 160 and whether the immersion suits EL FARO carried retained flotation capability after extended time in the water. The RDC planned and conducted a test to see if weighted mannequins in the same type of immersion suits EL FARO carried, showed any loss of flotation after a two-week period. The RDC moored two weighted mannequins in immersion suits in the basin at Little Sand Island, Mobile River, AL. The tethered, but free-floating mannequins remained in the water for a two week period. The observations indicated no-to-little loss of flotation, with an extremely small amount of water intrusion into each suit less than one liter of water. However, the suits did accrue a significant amount of marine vegetative growth that masked the apparent waterlines of the immersion suits.