Coast Guard Completes Risky Medevac from Johnston Island

HONOLULU — An injured Taiwanese fisherman was successfully transferred to City and County of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services personnel at Air Station Barbers Point Dec. 9. A Coast Guard cutter from Honolulu and Coast Guard C-130 crew from Alaska worked all weekend to conduct the risky medevac.

The ill fisherman — who reported ailments serious enough to require medical evacuation to Honolulu — was assisted off the fishing vessel Sheng Yi Tsai No. 166 early Dec. 6 by a small boat and crew from the buoy tender Kukui, home ported in Honolulu.

The Kukui’s crew rendezvoused with the fishing vessel about 200 miles from Johnston Island and then took the ill fisherman to the U.S. territory.

A C-130 crew flew from Kodiak, Alaska, to meet the Kukui and ill fisherman at Johnston Island, a low-standing coral island that is uninhabited and approximately 800 miles southwest of Oahu.

Because the former Department of Defense airfield and facilities on Johnston Island have been closed since the mid-1990s, crew members from the Kukui performed a walk-though to clear the runway of debris before the C-130 arrived. Foreign object debris (FOD) is a risk when propeller aircraft land on unmaintained airfields.

Additionally, the C-130 crew was forced to make an extremely risky landing, as the island is a National Wildlife Refuge and breeding ground for thousands of seabirds, making the possibility of a crippling bird-strike very high.

The Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Honolulu diverted Kukui Dec. 5 to intercept and rendezvous with the Taiwanese fishing vessel Sheng Yi Tsai No. 166.

Based upon an evaluation by the cutter’s medical team, it was determined the ill 33-year old crew member would need to be transported to the nearest available airfield from which a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft could medevac him to Oahu.

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