Amateur Radio operators associated with the Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN) played a significant part in summoning medical assistance on November 9 for a crew member suffering chest pains on board the 48-foot sailing vessel Marie Elena, some 300 miles east of Bermuda.
“The assistance we received from the ham radio operator[s] was crucial in helping us communicate with the vessel’s crew,” US Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Travis Unser said afterward. Unser was the search-and-rescue coordinator for the incident.
MMSN member Donald Plunkett, VA6FH, heard a call for medical assistance at 1650 UTC on the net’s 14.300 MHz frequency from Nick Cancro, KC2WRH, the captain of the Marie Elena.
Cancro reported that a crew member was experiencing severe chest pains and needed medical assistance. Fellow MMSN operator Fred Moore, W3ZU, of Inverness, Florida, had good propagation with the Marie Elena and contacted the vessel, linking it via a phone patch to the US Coast Guard Station in Norfolk, Virginia. The Coast Guard was able to connect the patient directly to medical personnel via the phone patch to ascertain symptoms and prescribe first aid measures prior to medical assistance arrival. Moore arranged with the Marie Elena to contact him at the bottom of the hour throughout the night and to call immediately if the patient’s condition worsened. The US Air Force also came on frequency at the Coast Guard’s request to evaluate the situation and see if it could assist.
Due to the sailboat’s distance offshore, the Coast Guard directed the captain to head toward Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Coast Guard then redirected the cutter Spencer, underway near the Virginia-North Carolina border, toward the Marie Elena. The Spencer rendezvoused with the sailboat at about 1230 UTC on 11/10/18, launching a small boat crew and transporting the man aboard the cutter. A short time later, a helicopter crew was able to hoist the man aboard from the Spencer and transport him to a hospital in Norfolk. Moore was assisted by a relay station Mark Strothmann Sr., KC9YRX, in Wisconsin, who provided much-needed information throughout the incident. Additional MMSN members pitched in as well.
“This was a true team effort, and I am proud of the members of this organization who train for just this type of event. They performed in an exemplary fashion,” said MMSN Manager Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL.
The Coast Guard noted that the Marie Elena has activated a Personal Locator Beacon and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), permitting rescue personnel to hone in on the vessel’s precise location.
Source: ARRL News. Photo from MarineTraffic.com