Clearwater Coast Guard rescues 4 from Bahamian fishing vessel

GREAT INAGUA, Bahamas – An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., rescued four people from a 60-foot Bahamian-flagged fishing vessel at about 8 p.m., Sunday, about 40-nautical miles north of Great Inagua, Bahamas, in the vicinity of the Category IV Hurricane Ike.

The Coast Guard Seventh District Command Center in Miami received notification from Nromberto Velez, the owner of the Midnight Sun, that the vessel was taking on water with four people aboard. The Command Center watchstanders launched a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HU-25 Falcon jet that was deployed to Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, to respond to the distressed boaters. The Falcon crew arrived on scene and confirmed that the vessel encountered complete engine failure and was taking on water in 70-knot winds and 30- to 35-foot seas with 40-foot swells. The crew of the vessel requested Coast Guard assistance and agreed to abandon the vessel.

The HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, who were deployed to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, immediately launched to assist the distressed boaters. After battling strong winds and rain, the rescue helicopter crew arrived onscene at about 8 p.m., deployed the rescue swimmer and hoisted all four people aboard the helicopter.

The rescue crew, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Turner, pilot, Lt. j. g. Daniel Cathell, co-pilot, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Menezes, flight mechanic, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jon Geskus, rescue swimmer, reported that the winds were so strong that the rain was coming down sideways against the helicopter. In the heavy seas, Geskus lost his fins and part of his suit on the first deployment and reported that the seas “looked like mountains.” In addition, this was Menezes’ first operational hoist.

The Coast Guard rescue crew transferred the boaters to Providenciales Airport. No injuries were reported.

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