Amongst the floating trash, sea life, and immense shipping traffic found near the Strait of Malacca, a man was spotted floating in the South China Sea on Saturday by a pair of incredibly sharp lookouts on board the US aircraft carrier, John C. Stennis.
The desperate man was a Malaysian fisherman who for some reason, had found himself alone, far from land, without his boat, and praying to God someone would find him.
His prayers were answered when at 9:08 a.m. the man overboard alarm was sounded on board the 90,000 ton warship. Within minutes, a rescue team from the “Eightballers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, launched a MH-60S Knighthawk from Stennis’ flight deck to fetch the helpless man from the ocean.
Among the first to spot the man overboard was Seaman Abel Cardona, a native of San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, who was standing a lookout watch on the aircraft carrier’s fantail.
“I saw something moving between the waves,” said Cardona. “Then I saw a man in the water waving his hands screaming ‘help, help, help!’”
After immediately tossing a life ring into the sea, he then and then called the ship’s bridge to report the man overboard.
Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class Taylor Child, the Search and Rescue swimmer aboard the helicopter, pulled the drowning man to safety at approximately 9:54 a.m.
“The whole thing was very surreal,” said Child. “I never saw the man until I was lowered down in the water near him. After we lifted him aboard, our crew chief assessed the man for injuries. He basically said he was from Indonesia and he was very thirsty, so we gave him some water and flew him to safety.”
The man was airlifted to the nearby dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Carl M. Brashear (T-AKE 7) where he was provided medical treatment prior to being transferred to the Singaporean Coast Guard.
Stennis is currently deployed in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).