EPIRB signal helps Coast Guard rescue mariner off Molokai

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard today rescued a mariner from an overturned fishing vessel after he activated his 406 MHz Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon approximately a quarter of a mile from Molokai’s northwest coast.

The Coast Guard’s 24-hour emergency command center in Honolulu first received a signal from the fishing vessel Nalu Kea at 10:43 a.m. Friday, April 17. The signal was detected by satellite and initially provided no GPS position information.

The signal was registered and the Coast Guard determined the vessel was underway with one person aboard on a weekend trip to Molokai. The next satellite pass provided a location approximately three miles off Ilio Point, Molokai (the northwest corner of the island).

A Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft and an HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu were diverted to the scene. The HH-65 crew found the capsized Nalu Kea at 12:07 a.m. with one person on the hull holding a red smoke flare.

The pilots of the HH-65 lowered a rescue swimmer into the water, who helped the mariner from the hull into a rescue basket. The rescued mariner was hoisted aboard the HH-65 and flown to Air Station Barbers Point.

“It’s a great feeling being able to quickly respond in these situations and successfully rescue a mariner in distress,” said Lt. Catharine Johann, one of the HH-65 pilots. “This guy was really prepared and had all the right gear — a 406, flares and smoke. He made it real easy for us to find him.”

Search and rescue controller Lt. Marvin Kimmel of the Coast Guard’s command center in Honolulu said having the 406 MHz EPIRB properly registered made it easy to investigate the initial report and quickly launch assets.

The HH-65 crew reported the weather on scene to be “ideal” with light variable winds of five knots and seas of one to two feet. The mariner lives on Oahu and was picked up from the air station by his wife.

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