Clinging to overturned hull
Air Station Clearwater, Fla.
Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater pulled four people from the water about 18 nautical miles west of Clearwater Beach. The crew of a Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter was returning to Clearwater from Hurricane Katrina support efforts in New Orleans when the co-pilot spotted an overturned 22-foot fishing boat with four people clinging to it. The helicopter circled back around, lowered to about 100 feet, and deployed a rescue swimmer to evaluate the situation and assist the people in the water. The four men were moved away from the boat into open water. A second rescue swimmer was lowered to assist in hoisting the survivors one at a time into the cabin of the helicopter. Once all four survivors were on board, the aircraft flew to Air Station Clearwater where EMS was waiting. One survivor was transferred to Morton Plant Mease Hospital where he was being treated for hypothermia. (Sept. 13)
Battered by wind and sea
Station St. Petersburg, Fla.
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island fought through eight-foot seas and 30-knot winds to rescue three people aboard a 44-foot sailboat. The sailboat was reported overdue to Coast Guard Group Galveston, Texas, after it failed to arrive as planned in Houston. The sailboat had begun its voyage six days earlier from Tampa. A Coast Guard C-130 located the vessel approximately 72 nautical miles west of Anna Maria Island. At that time, the sailboat’s master indicated that he and his two passengers were in no immediate danger but were in need of assistance back to port as their sails were damaged. Cutter Pea Island was dispatched to assist. The cutter took the sailboat in tow, heading back to Tampa Bay. (Aug. 26)
Caught in a hurricane
Air Station Miami, Fla.
A missing family arrived home safe after being rescued by the Coast Guard. An interview revealed that when the family headed out they believed the weather would remain favorable due to the hurricane’s projected path. However, that was not the case and their 24-foot cabin cruiser ran out of gas as a result of being severely slowed by the deteriorating weather. The father had attempted to reach Everglade City when he realized gas was low, but only made it about 10 miles offshore of the area. The family anchored and prepared to ride out the storm but the intense weather conditions eventually dragged them to a deserted mangrove island on the southwest coast of Ten Thousand Islands. The Coast Guard received notification of the overdue family that night and began searching.Although stranded, the family became reassured when they heard the Coast Guard’s Urgent Marine Information Broadcasts on their radio indicating a search for them was in progress. Although they could not transmit, they said this reassurance uplifted them and helped them stay positive throughout the night, along with playing games. A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater C-130 arrived in the search area spanning between Cape Coral and Marathon, Fla., but was only able to search for three hours due to severe weather conditions. The search was unable to resume again until later in the day. An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and an HH-25 Falcon jet from Coast Guard Air Station Miami began searching Florida Bay as an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater conducted a shoreline search and a C-130 prepared to cover the large search area once again. About mid-afternoon, a member of the family spotted the Falcon jet and the Jayhawk helicopter and shot off a signal flare. The Jayhawk immediately hoisted the family and brought them to Fort Myers Southwest Regional Airport. The family was not in need of medical attention and headed home after telling their story and expressing their appreciation to the Coast Guard. The family planned to arrange for commercial salvage to retrieve their boat. (Aug. 26)
4 rescued in big seas
Air Station Clearwater, Fla.
Four lives were saved over a weekend by Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews during two separate search and rescue cases. Two helicopter crews fought hurricane condition winds and seas to hoist four fishermen from life-threatening situations to safety. The Coast Guard received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon alert from a 41-foot fishing boat. The boat was sinking 25 miles west of the Dry Tortugas and the crew were prepared to abandon ship into their life raft if the boat went completely under water. After two risk assessments throughout the night, the Jayhawk crew determined it was unsafe to attempt to hoist the three fishermen on the boat or to drop down a pump due to sustained 75-knot winds and 45-foot seas. When morning came, the daylight and winds of 50 knots allowed the helicopter crew to drop a rescue swimmer in the water. The rescue swimmer instructed the fishermen to abandon ship one at a time at key moments and assisted them in the rescue basket for hoisting. The fishing boat’s crew was taken to Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater where they were interviewed and released in good condition. Shortly thereafter, the crew of another Jayhawk helicopter, who had been assisting the during the fishing boat rescue, headed 35 miles north of Key West, Fla., to rescue a man from his 25-foot fishing boat after a Coast Guard Air Station ClearwaterC-130 airplane crew heard his mayday call. Once on scene, the crew faced up to 40-knot winds and seas in excess of eight feet but were able to hoist the man to safety and bring him into Naval Air Station Key West where he was also interviewed and released in good condition. The owners of the boats were responsible for coordinating commercial salvage plans for their boats. (Aug. 28)
Dolphins legend rescued
Air Station Kodiak, Alaska
A Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk crew from Air Station Kodiak rescued NFL Hall of Fame star Larry Csonka and five others from a 28-foot charter boat near Nikolski on Umnak Island in the Aleutian Islands. The captain of the 28-foot charter boat with six people on board was returning to Nikolski when his boat was beset by 25-30-knot winds and eight-foot seas. A good Samaritan and friend of the captain reported the situation. He continued to relay important information for the captain of the stricken boat, which was able to monitor but not respond to VHF communications. The passengers donned survival suits. An H-60 helicopter rescue crew from Air Station Kodiak responded, hoisting the six persons to safety and returning them to shore. Coast Guard cutter Storis was expected to tow the charter boat to safe harbor. Csonka, a former member of the Miami Dolphins football team and host of the television show “North to Alaska,” has a son who is a Chief Warrant Officer serving in the Coast Guard. (Sept. 9)
28-footer taking on water
Station Destin, Fla.
The Coast Guard rescued three people near Destin, Fla., after their boat capsized and sank 12 miles east of Destin Pass. Watchstanders at Sector Mobile, Ala., received a mayday call from the three people on board a 28-foot boat, stating they were taking on water. Sector Mobile personnel then relayed the information to Coast Guard Station Destin. The two men and one woman put on life jackets and continued to speak with Station Destin personnel by cellular telephone. Station Destin launched their 25-foot rescue boat and pulled the three people safely from the water 20 minutes after the Mayday call. It was unknown at the time what caused the 28-foot Bayliner to sink. (Sept. 17)
Suspected smuggling voyage
Key West, Fla.
What appears to be an attempted smuggling venture became deadly as a boat with two people on board caught fire 40 miles southeast of Key West, Fla. The Coast Guard was notified by a Customs and Border Protection aircraft crew that a go-fast with two people and extra fuel barrels on board was on fire. Coast Guard Cutter Metompkin was immediately diverted to the scene. Both people aboard the boat jumped into the water.Crewmembers aboard the Metompkin were able to rescue one of the two and witnessed the deceased sink and were not able to recover him. The survivor suffered burns to his arms and face. He is being treated by Coast Guard medical personnel and will be transferred to cutter Confidence for further treatment. The Metompkin crew was not able to salvage the boat. The CBP air crew returned to the scene and was able to locate a debris field and oil sheen. (Sept. 17)