Coast Guard conducts long-range medevac off Unalaska

The TW Manila leaving port in Australia in 2013. (Courtesy: Basil Brindle/

The TW Manila leaving port in Australia in 2013. (Courtesy: Basil Brindle/

The Coast Guard sent three aircraft on a long-range rescue for a mariner aboard a container ship near Unalaska Monday.

The 751-foot bulk carrier TW Manila first called for help late Sunday night. They reported a crewmember was suffering from appendicitis-like symptoms on board.

The ship was 450 miles south of Unalaska at the time. That’s too far out to sea for a helicopter to safely conduct a hoist, says Coast Guard public affairs officer Jonathan Klingenberg.

“They have to get within 125 nautical miles so the helicopters can get out there with the fuel that they have, pick up the individual and get him back safely,” he says. “Any further than that, they risk fuel consumption.”

He says the Coast Guard told the cargo ship to steer closer to Unalaska. Then, the Coast Guard deployed a Jayhawk helicopter and Hercules airplane from Air Station Kodiak. They also called in a Dolphin helicopter from aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Midgett. The Seattle-based vessel was on patrol nearby.

Klingenberg says the extra aircraft were there as a precaution because the rescue was so far from land.

“These long-range medevacs illustrate our crews’ abilities to coordinate a highly complicated medevac such as this,” he says. “It takes a lot of planning with not only our cutters, but also our air crews and the vessel that the patient needs to be rescued from, in order to get them within range for us to get out there and safely get him back to the medical care that he needs.”

The aircraft met the cargo ship 125 miles south of Unalaska early Monday morning. Klingenberg says there were 15- to 20-foot seas and winds up to 40 miles per hour at the time.

The Jayhawk crew hoisted the 28-year-old mariner off the ship and took him back to Unalaska. He was transferred to a commercial medevac for further care.

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