When the world's mariners are in trouble, they count on the Coast Guard to come to the rescue – even in the dead of night and under the harshest conditions.
This past March, 31 fishermen lay stranded on top of a fishing vessel of the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The 143-foot Atlantic Destiny, was taking on water while a fire raged below. As conditions deteriorated, the crew issued their mayday.
The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards and Royal Canadian Air Force answered the call, organizing a joint rescue operation. Among the aircraft and vessels deployed were two U.S. Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter crews.
After arriving on scene, rescuers faced increasing winds and 30-foot waves as the vessel continued to rock back and forth in the tumultuous seas, over 130 miles from the Canadian coastline.
“We went out there, we thought we were going to be picking people up out of the water, and they decided to start pulling people off of the boat,” said Phillip Morales, Avionics Electrical Technician First Class for the U.S. Coast Guard.
The MH-60T Jayhawk hovered over the ship as rescuers lowered the rescue basket, lifting the fishermen to safety. The rough seas and high winds increased the challenge.
“It was challenging, the way that the boat was rolling and pitching in those waves, trying to get the trail line on board, with it sailing 30 or 40 feet behind and trying to calm the aircraft to pick up the survivors,” said Morales.
Despite these conditions, the Jayhawk crew steadily hovered over the sinking ship and hoisted 21 fishermen to safety.
The other aircraft and sea vessels - comprised of a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-149 Cormorant helicopter crew, a Canadian CC-130 Hercules, and a Canadian Coast Guard ship - worked together to rescue the remaining ten fishermen.
The Atlantic Destiny later sank – but with no passengers on board. The rescued fishermen were flown to a hospital in Nova Scotia to receive medical treatment and have made full recoveries.