Coast Guard rescue swimmer risks life for stranded fishermen
CAPE BLANCO — A Coast Guard rescue swimmer swam almost a mile — 1,750 yards — in 5-foot seas and 30-mph winds to rescue four people after their fishing vessel grounded near Cape Blanco, Tuesday morning.
According to a Coast Guard news release, Petty Officer 2nd Class Darren Harrity, a 27-year-old native of Jupiter, Florida, individually pulled each fisherman more than 250 yards in 57 degree water from their life raft to shore, where they were met by EMS.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector North Bend received a report from the crew of Jamie K, a 52-foot commercial fishing vessel, via VHF-FM marine radio channel 16 at 1:40 a.m. stating that they were taking on water and had lost power.
The vessel subsequently ran aground, at which time the crew donned survival suits and abandoned ship into their life raft.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station North Bend and two 47-foot Motor Life Boat crews from Coast Guard Search and Rescue Detachments Rogue River and Coquille River launched to assist.
The aircrew arrived on scene at 2:49 a.m. and lowered Harrity into the water next to the life raft. Shortly after, the aircrew reported experiencing mechanical issues with the helicopter and was unable to safely complete additional hoists. The aircrew remained on scene until all of the fishermen and rescue swimmer had safely made it to shore and then landed on the nearby beach.
“This was a tremendous team effort that demonstrates the strength and importance of the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program,” said Cmdr. Robert Workman, chief of response and aviation operations officer at Sector North Bend. “Petty Officer Darren Harrity did a fantastic job pulling four fishermen, each in full survival suits, to shore through waves, surf and darkness.”
The fishing vessel was reportedly carrying 3,000 gallons of diesel and 10,000 pounds of shrimp. A sheen was reported in the area, however, it is unknown how much fuel has been released.
Pollution responders from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland are assessing the pollution threat. Officials are working with local, state and federal partners to mitigate any potential risks to the environment.
The incident is under investigation.
To learn about Harrity’s own personal experience with being rescued and how it influenced his decision to become a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, see http://bit.ly/1KocMSc