Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown remembers USCGC Cuyahoga (WIX-157)


Flowers and a plaque are shown during a ceremony for the CGC Cuyahoga

Flowers and a plaque are shown during a ceremony for the CGC Cuyahoga Oct. 20, 2012.

Story and photo by Lt. Andrew Vicks

YORKTOWN, Va. – On the morning of Oct. 20, Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown hosted the 34th commemoration of the collision between the USCG Cutter Cuyahoga (WIX-157) and the 521-foot bulk carrier Santa Cruz II.  The disaster took the lives of 10 Coast Guard shipmates and one Indonesian naval officer on this day in 1978 in the Chesapeake Bay near the entrance to the Potomac River.

Led by Rear Adm. Daniel Neptun, assistant commandant for Human Resources, and Capt. Reed Stephenson, commanding officer of Training Center Yorktown, families, friends, and classmates of the Cuyahoga crew joined with TraCen staff, students, and guests to honor and remember the 11 shipmates lost that night. Neptun, as an officer candidate classmate and friend of those lost aboard Cuyahoga, delivered a memorial address at the TraCen’s Olde York Chapel.

Seaman Michael Atkinson, Petty Officer 1st Class Ernestino Balina, Petty Officer 1st Class William Carter, officer candidate James Cook, officer candidate John Heistand, Fireman Apprentice James Hellyer, Senior Chief Petty Officer David Makin, Seaman Apprentice David McDowell, officer candidate Edward Thomason, and officer candidate Bruce Wood of the Coast Guard along with Capt. Wiyona Sumalyo of the Indonesian Navy lost their lives that tragic night on the bay.

“To the crew and trainees aboard the Cuyahoga who have gone before us on that fateful training sortie up Chesapeake Bay, 34 years ago,” said Neptun in his concluding remarks. “Rest easy, your shipmates remain on watch.  Our Service will never forget the lessons you taught us.”

Click here to read a powerful first-hand account from a survivor of the Cuyahoga accident, Coast Guard Cmdr. Gordon Thomas IV, retired, which was originally published in the Coast Guard Compass in 2011.

-Visit the U.S. Coast Guard Mid-Atlantic’s Facebook page to see more photos from the ceremony at