Coast Guard rescue swimmers continue to impress us by making the impossible look routine. Two swimmers stationed in the Pacific Northwest did that last week as — within hours in separate incidents — the crews of two boats found themselves in big trouble.
The first case unfolded in the middle of the night on July 21 after a 52-foot commercial fishing boat grounded near Oregon’s Cape Blanco. The four crewmembers abandoned ship in 5-foot seas and 30-mph winds.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Darren Harrity, 27, was lowered into the water, but a mechanical problem prohibited hoisting anyone onto the HH-40 helicopter. So Harrity swam about 1,750 yards as he individually pulled each fisherman more than 250 yards in 57-degree water from their life raft to shore, where emergency medical services providers met them.
Later that day, a different Coast Guard crew rescued three fishermen from a 30-foot fishing boat that was sinking 19 miles off Tillamook Bay. It was a far more routine operation, but as the video shows, these lifesavers are special.
“Petty Officer Darren Harrity did a fantastic job pulling four fishermen, each in full survival suits, to shore through waves, surf and darkness,” said Cmdr. Robert Workman, chief of response and aviation operations officer at Sector North Bend. “This was a tremendous team effort that demonstrates the strength and importance of the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program.”
In the second rescue, Lt. Cmdr. James Gibson, Jayhawk helicopter pilot at Air Station Astoria, praised the fishermen for being prepared.
"The fishermen contacted the Coast Guard in a timely manner, were prepared with an emergency beacon, a backup radio, life jackets and immersion suits. Their preparation helped ensure their safety and made it easy for us to find them,” he said.
The cause of the sinking is unknown at this time.
The weather and sea conditions were reported as 6- to 10-foot seas and wind speeds of 11 mph with gusts as high as 27 mph.