Coast Guard Rescues Man from Disabled Vessel

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – An HH-65 helicopter, from Air Station Humboldt Bay, rescued Craig Peterson, a native of Chetco River, Ore., 50 miles north of Eureka, Calif., on Sunday, in the midst of the first large winter storm to hit the Northwest Coast this year.

Peterson left Chetco River, Ore., in late November, alone aboard his 25-foot Catalina Sailing Vessel, Jack, and was reportedly bound northwest to fish. His family became concerned for his safety and notified the Coast Guard on Nov. 28. After receiving the report from his family, the Coast Guard began broadcasting an urgent marine information broadcast (UMIB), in an attempt to contact the Sailing Vessel Jack.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Peterson contacted the Coast Guard reporting a broken rudder and taking on water over the side of his vessel. Peterson only had one personal floatation device (PFD), and a flare gun onboard. He did not have a survival suit to protect him from the 50-degree water temperature, or any back-up radio or emergency positioning indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) onboard.

The HH-65 helicopter made the 50 nautical mile transit in less than 25 minutes, and arrived on scene at 7:25 p.m., to find the sailing vessel Jack in sustained 50-mph winds and seas estimated to be at 30-feet. After discussing his options Peterson elected to be hoisted rather then stay onboard his vessel.

Due to the swinging mast, the helicopter crew informed Peterson that he would need to jump into the water to be picked up by the rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Lesko. Following the first attempt at rescuing Peterson, the helicopter crew dropped a flare to increase illumination and moved in a second time releasing Lesko into the water. Despite an injured back sustained in the lowering process, Lesko successfully swam the short distance to the vessel, and enticed Peterson into the water as they both swam away from the boat.

While the seas surged through blowing rain to just 30 feet below the aircraft, the helicopter moved back in to enable flight mechanic, Petty Officer 3rd Class Celso Jaquez, to deliver a basket to the water. The crew successfully pulled both men out of the water just as the helicopter hit minimum fuel state. Due to the low fuel state they returned to Air Station Humboldt Bay rather than directly to a hospital. Following treatment at a local medical facility, Peterson was released with no complications, while Lesko was treated for a lower back sprain and then released. The HH-65 was piloted by Lt. Lauren Cox, and assisted by co-pilot Lt. j.g. Alex Barker, who are both stationed at Air Station Humboldt Bay.

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