VIDEO – A hoist in hurricane conditions

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With winds as high as 120 mph and swells of 15 feet, four crewmen were forced to abandon their grounded 58-foot vessel and make their way to one of the Aleutian Islands to await rescue.

“ ‘Demanding hoist’ takes on a whole new meaning in Category 3 hurricane winds,” says Comdr. Todd Trimpert, chief of response at the 17th Coast Guard District based in Juneau, Alaska.

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The 17th Coast Guard District rescues four men from a grounded fishing vessel in hurricane-force winds.

The 58-foot commercial fishing Icy Mist ran aground around 4:30 a.m. Feb. 25. The first helicopter dispatched, a Coast Guard H-65 Dolphin, arrived at 6:40 a.m. but had to turn back because of the extreme conditions. The 878-foot Coast Guard cutter Munro, out of Kodiak, was also diverted to the scene, but conditions were so bad it didn’t participate in the rescue, according to Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson of the 17th District.

“Seas were so bad you could see the paint on the bottom of the cutter,” says Fredrickson, who filmed the rescue from the air. (See related video.)

By 9:30 a.m., an HC-130 Hercules and two MH-60 Jayhawks arrived, but though wind speeds had reduced to an average of 80 to 90 mph, conditions remained too dangerous to hoist the fishermen from their boat, according to Fredrickson.

“It was basically the equivalent of being on the coast during a hurricane. You would be barely able to stand up,” he says. “At one point [the helicopter] lost 100 feet in one second because the wind was shifting over the mountains.”

The four men were told to make their way to Akutan Island. From there, the men climbed a hill to an area where a Jayhawk crew could perform an unobstructed rescue. The fishermen were taken to Dutch Harbor; no injuries were reported. The cause of the grounding had not yet been determined.