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442 Squadron crew removes ill crew member from ship in daring rescue

A CORMORANT HELICOPTER from 442 Squadron at CFB Comox prepares to land in difficult conditions on a cargo ship to evacuate an ill crew member. - 442 Squadron
A CORMORANT HELICOPTER from 442 Squadron at CFB Comox prepares to land in difficult conditions on a cargo ship to evacuate an ill crew member.
— image credit: 442 Squadron

A crew member on board a 740-foot cargo ship was evacuated by an RCAF Search and Rescue (SAR)  helicopter from 442 Squadron in Comox, after he suffered a potential medical emergency Nov. 21.

The Cormorant helicopter and a Buffalo SAR airplane were launched from their base at 19 Wing Comox after Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria received a call for help at 9:40 a.m. from the Mitose indicating that one of their crew was suffering from possible medical distress.

The rescue aircraft arrived over the ship, which was approximately 130 km northwest of Vancouver Island, at noon.

“We approached the stern of the ship and told the captain to turn in a direction that would create a stable platform so that we could safely hoist the crew member into the helicopter,” said Capt. Luc Coates, aircraft commander of the Cormorant. “We hovered about 50 feet above the deck, and hoisted our first Search and Rescue Technician (SAR Tech) down. It was challenging because the ship was pitching up and down 15 to 20 feet and moving left to right.”

Once the first SAR Tech was on the ship, he attached a guideline to bring down two other SAR Techs and a rescue basket.

“The crew already had the patient ready to go and it was a quick matter of putting him in the basket and using the hoist and guideline to bring him into the helicopter,” said Sgt. Shawn Harrison, SAR Tech.

Once the patient was on board, the helicopter flew to Port Hardy where the patient was put onto the Buffalo for a flight to Comox.  On arrival, he was transferred in stable condition to B.C. Ambulance and taken to local hospital. The patient’s current condition is unknown.

— 442 Squadron

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