Coast Guard crew airdrops medical supplies to injured crewmembers off Galapagos Islands

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Latour and Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben Fowler, aviation maintenance technicians assigned to Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., drop medical supplies to a crew of the fishing vessel Sea Gem 900 miles northwest of the Galapagos Island, Sunday, April 19, 2015. The crew aboard Sea Gem contacted the 11th Coast Guard District Operation Center, Saturday, April 18, 2015, requesting medical supplies for two crew members aboard with severe burns. (Coast Guard photo by Lt. Jude Coatello)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Latour and Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben Fowler drop medical supplies to a crew of the fishing vessel Sea Gem 900 miles northwest of the Galapagos Island, Sunday, April 19, 2015. (Coast Guard photo by Lt. Jude Coatello)

ALAMEDA, Calif. – A Coast Guard aircrew dropped medical supplies to a Colombian fishing vessel 900 miles northwest of Galapagos Island, Sunday.

At approximately 10 p.m., Saturday, Coast Guard 11th District watchstanders received a call from personnel aboard the fishing vessel Sea Gem, a Colombian-flagged purse seiner, requesting medical supplies for two injured crewmembers aboard. The operator of the vessel reported they were conducting routine fishing operations in air and on water when their helicopter’s cabin caught on fire. The helicopter crew conducted an emergency landing in the water and was recovered by the fishing vessel. The two distressed members suffered severe burns, and the crew administered first aid.

A Coast Guard flight surgeon was consulted and recommended an airdrop of medical supplies and advised the patients receive high-level care as soon as they arrive to shore.

At approximately 7 a.m., Sunday, a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida, flew from Costa Rica to the fishing vessel and successfully dropped two units of medical supplies, provided by the Red Cross, by parachute to personnel aboard the Sea Gem at approximately 11:40 p.m.

The operator of the Sea Gem will maintain communication with the Coast Guard until it pulls into port in the Galapagos Islands approximately Wednesday.

“In a medical emergency at sea, timely notification to the appropriate search and rescue authorities is critical,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathaniel Johnson, District 11 search and rescue mission coordinator. “It can be challenging to immediately deliver the specific assistance needed to a location far from maritime ports and airfields. In this case, the rapid and extremely professional assistance of the partner agencies deployed enabled potential lifesaving supplies to arrive on the deck of the Sea Gem in time to provide critical care for two crewmembers.”

Coast Guard aircraft are equipped to drop life-saving equipment to surface vessels and people. Life rafts, radios, emergency rations and medical supplies are the most common, but flexibility in operations is necessary in order to save lives at sea.

“This case is a classic example of the Coast Guard’s amazing flexibility and rapid cross-agency partnering,” said Capt. Rich Lorenzen, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater. “A C-130 aircrew deployed to Central America in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South, seamlessly switches from law enforcement to Search and Rescue, to air drop critical medical gear. It doesn’t get any better than that – great teamwork and execution by all involved.”

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