Coast Guard rescues 2, medevacs 1 over weekend

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Over the weekend, Coast Guard crews responded to two incidents that could have been more efficiently executed if the mariners involved had had the appropriate communication or position indicating equipment.

A Coast Guard aircrew rescued two men Friday evening when their boat began to sink near the entrance of Copano Bay.

The Coast Guard received a call from SeaTow requesting assistance for a 17-foot bass boat with two men onboard that was reportedly sinking in the bay. The owners did not have a GPS or a marine band radio, and their cell phone had only 20 percent battery life left. The Coast Guard attempted to establish a position from the cell phone signal and sent a boatcrew aboard a 25-foot Response Boat – Small from Coast Guard Station Port Aransas to the approximate position. The position provided by the cell phone towers was found to be inaccurate, and the boatcrew was unable to locate the boat at night following a lengthy search. Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at 11:35 p.m., to assist. The helicopter was able to locate the boat at 12:29 a.m., using night vision goggles. Both persons from the boat were hoisted to the helicopter and released from Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi.

“We were searching all through the south side of Copano Bay the best we could from the position our command center determined using the cell phone towers,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Douglas Edwards, a crewmember at Station Port Aransas. “Without a reliable GPS position though, the actual position of the vessel was actually on the opposite side of the bay where we were searching. We had to operate at the limits of our depth clearances for our boat, and it was a very dark night. We’re very thankful the helicopter was able to assist and eventually spot the vessel farther down the bay.”

Coast Guard crewmembers also medevaced a 59-year-old man Saturday after the man suffered an injury to his arm 15 miles east of Port Aransas.

The captain of the shrimp boat Lady Kristi II contacted watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi by cellphone, requesting the medevac of a crewmember who had suffered a compound fracture to his arm. The vessel did not have GPS or a marine band radio, making communication and locating the vessel difficult. Coast Guard Station Port Aransas deployed a boatcrew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat — Medium along with an aircrew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Air Station Corpus Christi to assist. After locating the vessel and bringing the patient aboard the small boat, the aircrew lowered their rescue swimmer to assess the condition of the patient for the best course of action. The rescue swimmer remained onboard the small boat to provide medical care. The boatcrew delivered the patient to an awaiting ambulance at Station Port Aransas for transport to Spohn Memorial Hospital.

“We found out that the crewmember’s arm had been caught in a winch that caused the break in his arm,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Yanez, the coxswain of the Coast Guard small boat. “The injury was pretty bad, but the crewmember was stable on the boat, so the rescue swimmer did not want to risk further injury with only about a 20-minute ride back to the boat station.”

“There was a language barrier, since the crewmember spoke only Vietnamese, but the rescue swimmer did what he could to comfort the patient on the ride back and ensure the arm stayed secure,” said Yanez. “Shrimping is a dangerous profession, and we are proud to be always ready to respond when needed.”

All mariners are encouraged to invest in a VHF-FM marine-band radio as their primary means of communication on the water. VHF-FM marine-band radios are far more reliable than cell phones in the marine environment. VHF-FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress channel, is monitored by the Coast Guard and state marine patrols around the clock. In addition, distress calls broadcast over VHF-FM Channel 16 will be heard by all mariners in the vicinity. Urgent safety information and weather reports for boaters are also broadcast over marine band radio channels.

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