Coast Guard rescue swimmer injured during sinking sailboat rescue

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Coast Guard rescue crews from six different units, including three Cutters and three Air Stations, responded to a sinking sailboat with three people onboard approximately 102 miles southeast of Atlantic City N.J., Wednesday.

Rescued were Kevin Hogan, a 52-year-old and Teresa Gravie, age unknown. Phil Rubright, a 65-year-old Detroit resident was recovered but pronounced deceased by the Atlantic County Medical Examiner Office in Atlantic City.

The Coast Guard began its search after watch standers at the Rescue Coordination Center in Portsmouth received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) alert and determined it was aboard the 44-foot sailing vessel FREEFALL.

After obtaining this information Coast Guard rescue crews, aboard a C-130J and MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter were launched from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.

The Elizabeth City rescue crews arrived on scene but were unable to hoist the three passengers from the FREEFALL due to the extreme weather conditions consisting of rain and 40-50 knot winds and 40-50 foot seas. The rescue crew determined that in order to conduct a safe hoist the passengers and the rescue swimmer had to enter the water. The rescue swimmer and Mr. Rubright entered the water to attempt the hoist but the rescue basket and hoist cable were damaged by a large wave.

The helicopter crew deployed a life raft and Mr. Rubright was placed in it. Reportedly another large wave hit and injured the rescue swimmer and tossed Mr. Rubright from the life raft. The injured rescue swimmer was unable to recover Mr. Rubright.

The helicopter crew employed the Emergency Recovery Device (ERD) to recover the rescue swimmer. This manual recovery device is only used during the most extreme circumstances and the person being hoisted must be trained and wear a rescue strop.

Without the means to recover Mr. Rubright the helicopter crew called for assistance and departed for Atlantic City to seek treatment for the injured rescue swimmer.

The Coast Guard then launched two MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crews from Air Station Atlantic City along with a HU-25 Falcon jet and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews from Air Station Cape Cod, Mass. The 270-foot Coast Guard Cutters Northland and Seneca, along with the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Mako were also dispatched to the scene.

The Atlantic City helicopter crews were able to relocate the stricken vessels crew and relay the position to the incoming Cape Cod rescue crews.

Upon arriving on scene the Cape Cod helicopter crew recovered Mr. Rubright from the water and flew him to Atlantic City where he was pronounced deceased by the Atlantic County Medical Examiner.

A second MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew from Elizabeth City was dispatched to the scene and hoisted Hogan and Gravie from the sailboat and flew them to Air Station Atlantic City where they were turned over to local EMS crews and taken to a AtlatiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City for treatment.

Both Hogan and Gravie suffered from mild hypothermia and are in good condition.

This case is under investigation by the Coast Guard.

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