U.S. Coast Guard aircrew rescues 10 from French Frigate Shoals

HONOLULU — A crew from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point rescued 10 people from Tern Island, part of the French Frigate Shoals (FFS), Wednesday afternoon.

Officials from the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contacted Coast Guard search and rescue coordinators here at approximately 2 p.m. Tuesday requesting the evacuation of their personnel as a precaution to the inbound Hurricane Neki.

The runway at FFS is very short and consists of crushed coral; the island is also covered with birds that pose a serious bird strike risk, according to search and rescue coordinators located in Honolulu; however, the Coast Guard C-130 long-range search plane crew was able to safely land their aircraft.

The C-130 landed on Oahu at about 3 p.m. Wednesday, after the 475 nautical mile flight from Tern Island.

“I turned to my crew and said, ‘If a storm hits this tiny island, these people might not make it – we have to get these guys,'” said Lt. j.g. David Shook, the C-130 pilot. “The landing was a major concern for me and my crew, but the crew’s professionalism made all the difference.”

“We are incredibly grateful to U.S. Coast Guard District 14, especially the pilots and crew of today’s C-130; they are true heroes in today’s world,” said Susan White, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Superintendent for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

“They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the safety of our 10 people on Tern Island. Knowing that our people are safe is our primary concern, and now a huge weight is lifted thanks to the Coast Guard. Our attention now turns to focusing on status and recovery of nesting seabirds, other marine wildlife, and our facilities. Once again, the Coast Guard lived up to its motto of ‘Always Ready,'” said White.

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