A severe downwind nearly pushed a Coast Guard helicopter into the Gulf of Mexico as it attempted to rescue a cruise ship passenger in need of medical attention Saturday.
According to Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, along with an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane, was dispatched about 4:31 a.m. Saturday after a report from the Carnival Dream of a passenger experiencing heart attack-like symptoms.
The Jayhawk arrived at the location, about 300 miles off Fort Morgan. During the rescue attempt, as the rescue crew was hoisting a cruise ship nurse, a severe squall forced the crew to move the Jayhawk away from the ship.
As the helicopter moved from the ship, a severe downwind forced the aircraft downward, with the crew “recovering the aircraft close to the water’s surface,” according to the USCG.
A video taken by a passenger and posted to social media shows the Jayhawk struggling against the wind to move away from the ship and is then forced downward, coming perilously close to the surface of the water.
Both the Jayhawk and Ocean Sentry were forced to return to base due to the severe weather conditions, but another Jayhawk rescue crew would return to ship later and rescued both the patient and Coast Guard rescue swimmer, who had been left aboard the ship when the first Jayhawk was forced to abort the rescue attempt.
“During the rescue, the aircrew experienced severe and rapidly deteriorating weather that forced them to abort the mission,” said Cmdr. Keith Blair, commanding officer, Air Station New Orleans.
“Through exceptional real-time risk management, crew resource management, and superb piloting, the aircrew was able to safely recover the aircraft and land at the air station without further incident.”
The patient was ultimately transferred to University Medical Center in New Orleans and was listed in stable condition.
©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit al.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.