Coast Guard medevacs lone sailor and dog, helps bring sailboat home

Walter Smith stands with Petty Officer Graham Smith and Walter's dog after Petty Officer Smith medevaced them from their sailboat about 40 miles off Port Aransas, Texas, November 15, 2016. This rescue was Petty Officer Smith's first Coast Guard rescue. Mr. Smith suffered from heart attack symptoms and needed assistance. Photo courtesy of the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Fire Department.

Walter Smith stands with Petty Officer Graham Smith and Walter’s dog after Petty Officer Smith medevaced them from their sailboat about 40 miles off Port Aransas, Texas, November 15, 2016.  Photo courtesy of the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Fire Department.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Coast Guard rescue swimmer made his first rescue Tuesday, when he helped a man suffering from chest pains with onset of a heart attack aboard a sailboat about 40 miles off Port Aransas.

Rescued was Walter Smith, 77.

Smith contacted Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi watchstanders at about 6 p.m., reporting that a wave washed his medicine overboard and that he was in need of assistance. The watchstanders immediately dispatched a Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew to help.

The helicopter crew lowered Petty Officer 3rd Class Graham Smith, an aviation survival technician who recently graduated rescue swimmer school and qualified at the air station, to assess the man’s condition. After Smith determined the man was suffering from chest pains, was far from shore, alone and without medicine, the man and his dog were hoisted into the helicopter with Smith’s help.

“My adrenaline was going strong, but I fell back on my training to assess the situation and recover an elderly man from the onset of a heart attack and retrieve his dog from their sailboat,” said Petty Officer Smith, regarding his first Coast Guard rescue. “I grabbed the dog with my arms, put my fins on, jumped in [the water] and did a bear hook recovery while holding the dog. The dog was really scared and frazzled, doing everything to stay dry. I kept him up on my shoulder and he just stayed right up there. He was fine once he was away from the water and rotor wash.”

The aircrew marked the location of the sailboat for later recovery by a Coast Guard cutter and headed to shore. The crew met EMS at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and the man and dog were taken to Spohn Memorial Hospital. Mr. Smith was reported to be in stable condition.

The Coast Guard Cutter Manatee crew navigated the sailboat back to the sea buoy off Port Aransas and a friend of the rescued man brought the sailboat safely into port.

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