injured sailor rescued from wallowing freighter

An aircrew from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron evacuated an injured sailor from the deck of a bulk log freighter.

An aircrew from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron evacuated an injured sailor from the deck of a bulk log freighter, 370 kilometres southwest of Sandspit on Monday evening.

Crews were dispatched from 19 Wing Comox after Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria received a call from the freighter at 11:30 a.m., notifying that a crew member had suffered a severe leg injury.

A CH-149 Cormorant helicopter and a CC-115 Buffalo fixed-wing aircraft were both called to respond. The Cormorant arrived at the ship at approximately 5:30 p.m. and the Flight Engineer and Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs) began a hoist operation.

“The ship was moving up and down with the seven- to eight-metre sea swells and due to the logs on the main deck, we were only able to use the small area at the stern of the ship to lower our two SAR Techs aboard,” said Sgt. Carl Schouten, the flight engineer responsible for operating the hoist. “Because of the antennae mast and support cables, we had to lower them from 65 feet.”

As the SAR Techs were lowered onto the deck, the Buffalo circled above, dropping flares to aid in the operation.

“We arrived over the ship first and were able to tell the ship’s navigator how to prepare for the arrival of the helicopter in terms of positioning the ship and turning off the radar to minimize radio interference,” said Capt. John Edwards, aircraft commander of the Buffalo.

Once the SAR Techs had stabilized the patient for transport, he was flown to Sandspit to the waiting Buffalo. From there, he was flown to Comox and transferred into the care of the B.C. Ambulance Service in stable condition. The patient’s present medical condition is unknown.

“This was a total team effort in terms of personnel and aircraft,” said Lieut.-Col. Jonathan Bouchard, commanding officer of 442 Squadron and aircraft commander of the Cormorant. “Long-range rescues like this can be challenging, but we used both the Cormorant and the Buffalo to their best capabilities.”

Search and rescue (SAR) incidents under the federal SAR mandate are defined as “all aircraft incidents and all marine incidents in waters under federal jurisdiction.

With the exception of federally owned national parks, the overall responsibility for land and inland water search and rescue rests with the provinces, territories and municipalities. The Canadian Forces may, however, provide assistance to land and inland water rescues when possible.

— 19 Wing Comox