Coast Guard finds missing hiker, saves 3 aboard sailing vessel

Hoist trainingMCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — Coast Guard members located a lost hiker Thursday near Manila and rescued three people aboard a sailing vessel 53 miles west of Eureka Friday.

Thursday, at approximately 8:40 p.m., Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay watchstanders received a request from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department to assist in locating a 20-year-old male near the Manila Sand Dunes. Rescue 6606, an MH-65D helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay, was immediately dispatched to search the area,while ground personnel from the local5 police department remained in contact with the distressed male by cell phone. As night fell, the aircrew utilized night vision goggles and instructed the man to use a flashlight function on his cell phone, which immediately made his position apparent to the four-member rescue flight crew. The flight crew coordinated through Sector Humboldt Bay Command Center with the sheriff’s department ground crew to vector them toward the lost hiker, and they returned him to safety.

At approximately 10 p.m., Sector Humboldt Bay received a radio call from an operator aboard the 55-foot sailing vessel Kaloni, transiting from Bellingham, Washington to San Francisco.

The operator of the distressed vessel reported his vessel lost engine power and its sails were torn, but he and his crew were in no immediate danger. All three crew members were unable to control the sailboat.

The operator reported the weather conditions off-shore deteriorated through the night with winds more than 40-miles per hour and swells between 15-20 feet. The crew became sea sick after several hours, and the seas became increasingly dangerous before they requested for immediate evacuation by the Coast Guard.

An MH-65D helicopter, piloted by Lt. Cmdr Jason Bustamente and Lt. Cameron Welicka were dispatched by Sector Humboldt Bay to assist. Rescue 6606 located the vessel Kaloni 53 nautical miles west of Eureka around 5:40 a.m., Friday. The weather conditions were around 65 miles per hour winds and seas of 25 feet. With coordination of the pilots and Flight Mechanic, Petty Officer 2nd Class John Clare, attempted to lower the rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 2nd Class Max Kaczmarek, directly to the sailboat to assess the condition of the survivors. After two unsuccessful attempts to place the rescue swimmer aboard the distressed vessel, the rescue crew lowered Kaczmarek next to the vessel where the survivors entered the ocean and they were able to safely hoist them from the heavy seas one by one.

All three crew members were transported to Sector Humboldt Bay without any injuries.

“Those were by far the largest waves I have ever seen,” said Welicka. “It was truly a team effort that led to the successful rescue of the three mariners.”

“Fortunately, the hiker and sailors had the appropriate communications equipment to call for help, and the Coast Guard was ready to respond quickly and effectively to safely save lives.” said Capt. Art Snyder, commander, Sector Humboldt Bay.

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