Coast Guard aircrew rescues man from burning boat near Neah Bay, Wash.

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SEATTLE — A Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles rescued a man after his vessel caught fire three miles north of Neah Bay, Sunday.

The man was hoisted from his life raft into an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and transported to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles in a reportedly severe hypothermic state.

The 25-foot pleasure craft Dawn Trader is engulfed in flames following an engine fire three miles north of Neah Bay, Wash., Aug. 3, 2014. A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Port Angeles safely hoisted the vessel operator from his life raft and transported him to a nearby hospital. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Neah Bay)

The 25-foot pleasure craft Dawn Trader is engulfed in flames following an engine fire three miles north of Neah Bay, Wash., Aug. 3, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Neah Bay)

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in Seattle received a mayday call on VHF-FM channel 16 from the operator of the 25-foot pleasure craft Dawn Trader around 11 a.m. He reported that the vessel was on fire and he was donning a survival suit and abandoning ship into his life raft.

The Dolphin aircrew and a 25-foot Response Boat — Small crew from Coast Guard Station Neah Bay were launched in response. Good Samaritans aboard a nearby vessel also offered to assist in the search.

Both Coast Guard crews arrived in the vicinity of the original distress call around 11:50 a.m. and began searching for the man. Heavy fog reduced visibility in the area to 100 feet. The life raft’s onboard GPS was malfunctioning and the man’s flares did not fire correctly further complicating the search.

The aircrew used the signal from the man’s handheld marine radio and the direction finding capabilities of the Dolphin helicopter to locate the life raft. They found the man clinging to the partially submerged raft and hoisted him into the Dolphin at noon.

The Dawn Trader became engulfed in flames, split in half and sank. An unknown amount of fuel was aboard. The vessel is not believed to be a hazard to navigation.

“The fact that the survivor had a raft and handheld radio most likely saved his life,” said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Geraghty, the aircraft commander aboard the Dolphin. “The extensive search area and difficult conditions we encountered would have made locating him nearly impossible had we not been able to hone in on his radio transmission with the helicopter’s direction finding system.”

The RB-S boatcrew from Station Neah Bay recovered and disposed of the man’s life raft.

This was the first operational rescue at sea for the Dolphin aircrew’s aviation survival technician and flight mechanic.

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