Rescue swimmer’s first medevac; rescues man in Gulf of Mexico

Coast Guard 8th District News
HOUSTON — A Coast Guard rescue swimmer, and Port Jervis, N.Y., native, medevaced a man from a bulk carrier in the Gulf of Mexico, about 45 miles east of Galveston, and his crew delivered the man to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTB) in Galveston for treatment Thursday.

A ship’s representative, for the Bahamian flagged bulk carrier Blackfin, contacted Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston watchstanders at 7:18 a.m., to report that the chief engineer was suffering from abdominal and back pain.  Starting 130 miles from shore, a Coast Guard flight surgeon in New Orleans determined the ship was too far and his symptoms were to severe to wait for their return to port.

A Coast Guard Air Station Houston MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew were diverted to rescue the man while a Coast Guad Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew provided communications cover and helped prepared the ship’s crew for the medevac.

The newly qualified rescue swimmer was lowered more than 100 feet to the deck of the ship on his first search and rescue case.  The pilots held their position in 20 to 25 knot winds while avoiding the ship’s loading cranes as the man was hoisted about 125 feet up to the helicopter.

“I was nervous at first because it was the real deal,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Vicchiariello, the rescue swimmer lowered to help the injured man. “It was a good experience. Helping people is something I always wanted to do.”

The man was delivered to UTMB Galveston at about 2:30 p.m. in stable condition.

“The geographic separation between our responding units in Mobile, Ala., New Orleans and Houston working together to assist someone in acute pain offshore, was impressive,” said Lt. Matthew Walter, a command duty officer at the sector. “Coordinating information to locate a vessel reportedly 100 miles offshore, with a crew that barely spoke English, was a challenging task.”

Rescue swimmer and medevaced man in UTMB

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Vicchiariello, an aviation survival technician at Air Station Houston, escorts a medevac patient into the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, April 25, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

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