A dramatic rescue attempt took place over the weekend as a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter battled harsh weather conditions during a medevac operation approximately 300 miles off the coast of Fort Morgan, Alabama. Passengers aboard the cruise ship captured footage of the harrowing incident, which has since been shared online.
The operation unfolded on Saturday morning after Coast Guard Sector Mobile watchstanders received an emergency call at 4:31 a.m. from the Carnival Dream cruise ship. The crew reported a 76-year-old passenger suffering from symptoms resembling a heart attack, requiring immediate medical evacuation.
In response, Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile dispatched an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, while Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans provided an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to assist in the rescue. The Jayhawk crew arrived on the scene, lowering a rescue swimmer to the ship. However, as the crew attempted to hoist a nurse from the cruise ship, a sudden squall forced them to pull back.
With the helicopter caught in a severe downwind, the aircrew had to skillfully recover the aircraft just above the water’s surface. Due to the deteriorating weather, both the Jayhawk helicopter and Ocean Sentry aircraft were forced to return to base.
Video of the incident is below. You can see the helicopter battling the wind before backing away and losing altitude when the video cuts out.
A second Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station New Orleans later returned to the scene, successfully hoisting the patient and rescue swimmer before transferring the patient to University Medical Center for emergency care.
Cmdr. Keith Blair, commanding officer of Air Station New Orleans, praised the aircrew for their professionalism amid severe and rapidly deteriorating weather. “Through exceptional real-time risk management, crew resource management, and superb piloting, the aircrew was able to safely recover the aircraft and land at the air station without further incident,” said Cmdr Blair.
The patient was delivered to the medical center in stable condition.
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