Kodiak Daily Mirror - Call from Australia sends Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley on rescue
Call from Australia sends Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley on rescue
by James Brooks / editor@kodiakdailymirror.com
Feb 21, 2012 | 269 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KODIAK — An unusual medevac mission Sunday and Monday sent a call for help bouncing from the North Pacific to Australia and Juneau before reaching the Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley in the Bering Sea.

“I think that’s kind of rare,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Alaska.

The trouble began Sunday when a 38-year-old Filipino crewman aboard the 537-foot bulk carrier Global Bay fell ill. The crew of the Panamanian-flagged ship sought help through a telemedicine service provided by Rescue Coordination Center Australia.

Jo Meehan, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said Australia is one of a number of countries that offer a federal telemedicine service for mariners. The United States has several private providers, but no government-run operation.

Meehan said it isn’t unusual for the coordination center to get calls from distant ships using satellite phones.

“Seafarers can call any of the countries that provide the telemedical advice service if they require it,” she wrote in an email.

In the Global Bay’s case, “The medical advice was for the ill crew member to be medevaced and RCC Australia handed coordination of this incident to the U.S. Coast Guard,” Meehan wrote.

Just after 9 p.m. Sunday, the coordination center called the Coast Guard command center in Juneau and informed them of the problem. At the time, the Global Bay was more than 200 miles south of Dutch Harbor. The closest Coast Guard responder was the cutter Alex Haley, on patrol in the Bering Sea north of Dutch Harbor. As soon as the call came in, the two ships began sailing toward a helicopter rendezvous.

Just before 8 a.m. Monday, the Alex Haley’s MH-65 Dolphin helicopter arrived above the Global Bay and hoisted the ailing crewman aboard. After stopping at the Alex Haley to refuel, the helicopter continued to the Dutch Harbor airport and an awaiting commercial medical flight.

The man was reported in stable condition at the time of the medevac.

“As weird as it may have been, things did work out,” DeVuyst said.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.
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