As part of its continuing fleet revitalization, the U.S. Coast Guard commissioned the latest fast response cutter, the Charles W. Sexton in Key West, Florida, Saturday, March 8. The new cutters are all named after enlisted Coast Guard heroes. The Coast Guard Foundation is supporting the crew of the Charles W. Sexton by providing a $5,000 morale fund.
Sexton was a machinery technician on a motor lifeboat based at Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment in Oregon. He and his crew were dispatched to rescue four fishermen whose boat had been overcome by rough seas north of the Columbia River Bar, a notoriously dangerous stretch of water.
On January 11, 1991, Sexton and his crew launched motor lifeboat 44381 after they received report that the fishing vessel Sea King, a 75-foot stern trawler, was taking on water four miles northwest of the Columbia River Bar. The Sea King had four men on board and was in danger of sinking with her decks awash and the engine room steadily filling up with water.
Sexton went aboard the foundering fishing vessel with other crewmembers to treat the injuries of a Sea King crewmember who had fallen to the deck.
Once the victim was stabilized, Sexton focused his attention on dewatering the vessel. Because the Sea King was so flooded, it required several dewatering pumps to remove the initial quantity of seawater from the engine room along with hourly dewatering the vessel to ensure the boat did not submerge.
After more than six exhaustive hours of dewatering and maintaining the vessel, with the worst of the treacherous bar crossing behind them, the Sea King rolled over without warning and threw its passengers into the agitated seas. The power of the water trapped Sexton in the enclosed pilothouse and he, along with two fishermen, went down with the vessel.
Tragically, Sexton perished when the ship sank. He gave his life so others may live. We at the Coast Guard Foundation honor his sacrifice to ensure that heroes like Charles Sexton are not forgotten.