Coast Guard rescues hypothermic man trapped in cave

ALBION, Calif. – Multiple crews from Coast Guard Station Noyo River assisted Albion Fire Department in the rescue of a 52-year-old male who became trapped in a cave while diving for abalone near Albion, Calif., on Thursday.

At 11:46 a.m., the Coast Guard received the initial report from the Howard Forest dispatch crew that a man had become trapped in a cave and was in need of assistance near the Heritage House in Albion, Calif. Albion Fire Department personnel reported hearing cries for help and immediately began to contact all local agencies for assistance.

Coast Guard Station Noyo River immediately launched two 47- foot Motor Lifeboats, and also dispatched the unit’s Mobile One Beach Rescue team to the scene. However, six to eight foot breaking swells, combined with the extremely rocky shoreline, prevented the Motor Lifeboat crewmembers from gaining access to the victim.

The Mobile One Beach Rescue, led by Officer in Charge Master Chief Michael Saindon, arrived on scene at 12:07 p.m. The crew immediately realized the severity of the situation and began to scale the extremely steep access path down to the face located above the cave. Saindon, assisted by Petty Officers Gabrielle Tate and Nick Hatzistefanou, and Seaman Christopher Austin, assessed the situation and quickly determined that the most expeditious means of rescue was to tether Austin to a rescue harness while he swam to the trapped and exhausted victim. Upon entry of the water, Austin located the victim who was suffering from severe hypothermia and multiple lacerations.

Using a coordinated effort to time the incoming swells, Saindon, Tate, Hatzistefanou and Austin were able to extract the injured man from the cave. Once free, Austin and the survivor were hauled up the steep rock face where the victim was treated by waiting emergency medical services, transferred to a local hospital, and later released in stable condition.

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