Coast Guard Air Station Savannah Medevacs Fisherman

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A Coast Guard Helicopter from Air Station Savannah, Ga., launched from Air Facility Charleston, medevaced a fisherman from a vessel 117 miles southeast of Charleston Sunday evening.

Mike Nielson, 35, of Charleston, was aboard the fishing vessel Bold Venture when the Coast Guard received a report indicating Nielson was suffering from a laceration and multiple broken bones and that he required medical assistance.

An HH-65C Dolphin helicopter was dispatched to conduct the medevac with an Air Station Clearwater C-130 Hercules flying cover. On scene weather included 20-foot seas and 30-knot winds.

An initial attempt to lower the Coast Guard rescue swimmer to the Bold Venture was aborted by the rescue swimmer due to the pitching and rolling of the vessel in the rough seas and the hazards associated with the vessel’s rigging and 30-foot antenna.

The aircrew then decided to deliver the swimmer to the vessel off the bow and on the leeward side of the vessel, to protect the swimmer from the waves. The rescue swimmer requested the Bold Venture deploy a lift ring tethered to the vessel to allow the crew to pull him to the boat. Due to the extreme pitching of the vessel and the limited time the helicopter could remain on scene, the rescue swimmer stayed in the water alongside the vessel and had Nielson get into the water. The swimmer then towed Nielson away from the Bold Venture and signaled the aircrew for a pickup.

The aircrew recovered Nielson with the basket and immediately attempted recover the rescue swimmer. It took three attempts to hoist the rescue swimmer to the helicopter due to the high winds and repeated high cresting of the waves. Nielson was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston.

“Given the range of the Dolphin helicopter, the distance we had to travel in this case did not leave us much time to effect the rescue,” said Lt. j.g. James Willingham, co-pilot for the mission. “We had to act quickly and precisely to safely medevac the patient and still have enough fuel to transport him to a hospital.”

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