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MV Brandon Travis

Medical Emergency - May 25, 2004

This article was submitted to several boating and ham radio magazines.  This is why it is written the way it is.

Tuesday May 25, 2004, at approximately 12:54 EDT, the MV Brandon Travis came onto the Maritime Mobile Service Network (14.300 MHz) stating that he needed assistance.  The Maritime Mobile Service Network is a group of volunteer amateur radio operators dedicated to assisting vessels at sea.  This assistance can range from taking a simple position report to a vessel in distress.  This group of volunteers have a high standard of professionalism and are very experienced in handling emergency traffic.  (See our website at http://mmsn.org).  It should be noted that the Captain of the Brandon Travis was not an amateur radio operator but it was later learned that he knew that if there was an emergency onboard, he could get immediate and capable help on this frequency.  Under normal conditions, transmissions by non-amateur stations on this frequency is prohibited by international law.  But when an emergency occurs at sea, anyone can use the frequency for assistance.

The Captain said that there had been a fight on the ship between some crew and that a 17 year old crew member had been stabbed three times.  He said that the crew member had been stabbed twice in the arms and once in the back.  The stab wound in the back was of the greatest concern as the knife had entered between the third and fourth rib on the right side of the back and the 7 inch blade had penetrated to it's full depth.

The Captain gave his position as 16º 06' North and 080º 38' West, or approximately 2 days east of Roatan, Honduras.  The Brandon Travis is an 80 foot steel hulled commercial fishing boat and is owned by company in Honduras.

The Captain requested that the net contact the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and tell them that he needed assistance with the injured person.  The original call was taken by Tom Job - VE3II, near Toronto-Canada, and the necessary initial information was obtained.  District 7 SAR Center in Miami, Florida was then contacted and the information relayed to them.  In turn, they contacted the Honduran authorities and efforts were made to have the vessel intercepted and evacuate that injured person.

As this was happening, other net control stations obtained the secondary information.  Another amateur radio operator, Jim Hirschman - K4TCV in Miami, Florida, was contacted and came onto the frequency.  Dr. Hirschman is a physician and has extensive experience in assisting with injuries and medical emergencies over the radio.  Dr. Hirschman spoke with the Captain and passed instructions to the vessel to treat the injuries.  It was determined that the person was in shock and having difficulty breathing.  The injury was life-threatening and medical evacuation was of the utmost urgency.

By approximately 3:00pm EDT, all that could be done had been done and the waiting began.  The Brandon Travis had been redirected from it's original course to Laguna de Caratasla, Honduras.  At it's top speed, this port was approximately 12 to 14 hours away.  Meantime, the Honduran Navy was launching a vessel to intercept the Brandon Travis and take the injured person to hospital.

The Maritime Mobile Service Network maintained an hourly radio schedule with the Brandon Travis for a position report and a medical update.  Dr. Jim was joined by another doctor, Peter Sosnow - W1KY in Niskayuna, New York.  Dr. Sosnow is an ER trauma specialist.  The doctors were apprised each hour of the injured persons condition and were ready to recommend changes in the treatment.  This radio schedule was maintained even after the net closed at 10:00pm EDT

On May 26, 2004 at 12:45am, the net was informed by the Brandon Travis that the injured person had been moved onto a Honduran Naval vessel and was being taken to a hospital.  His condition was stable.

We have since been informed that the injured person has been admitted to hospital and is doing very well.  He is expected to be released within a couple of days.

Once more, amateur radio was ready and willing to assist in an emergency situation.  The Maritime Mobile Service Network stands ready to assist any mariner with any situation that may arise.  The amateurs who participated directly in this rescue were:

Tom Job - VE3II
Rick Jones - WB6LNH
Jim Hirschman - K4TCV
Peter Sosnow - W1KY
Bob Botik - K5SIV
Mike Pilgrm - K5MP

There were many other amateur operators and net control stations on the frequency during the time of this incident and ALL stations should be commended for their assistance in keeping the frequency clear.


The following is was was published by the ARRL in the ARRL Letter on June 11, 2004

==>MARITIME MOBILE SERVICE NET HANDLES AT-SEA MEDICAL EMERGENCY

Members of the Maritime Mobile Service Net <http://mmsn.org/> recently were
instrumental in the successful handling of yet another medical emergency
at sea. The crisis arose when a young hand aboard a commercial fishing
vessel in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Central America suffered
serious knife wounds May 25 in a fight with a crewmate. Although not an
amateur licensee, the captain of the Motor Vessel Brandon Travis knew he
could get prompt assistance on the net's 14.300 MHz frequency.

"Under normal conditions, transmissions by non-amateur stations on this
frequency are prohibited by international law," said Assistant Net Manager
Tom Job, VE3II, who lives near Toronto and took the initial call for help.
"But when an emergency occurs at sea, anyone can use the frequency for
assistance." At the time, the 80-foot, steel-hulled Brandon Travis was
reported two days east of Roatan, Honduras.

The captain, who identified himself as "Chris," explained that the most
serious injury the 17-year-old crew member suffered was a stab wound in
the back, just a few inches from the victim's spine.

After obtaining critical information, Job contacted the Coast Guard's
District 7 Search and Rescue Center in Miami and relayed the situation
report. The Coast Guard in turn contacted Honduran authorities to arrange
to evacuate the injured man.

The net also was able to get physician Jim Hirschman, K4TCV, a net member
in Miami, on frequency. Hirschman has extensive experience assisting with
injuries and medical emergencies via the radio. He was one of the
principal MMSN members to provide assistance and advice to the parents of
Willem van Tuyl, then 13, after he was shot and seriously injured in a
pirate attack on the family's sailboat in 2000.

The injured man was reported in pain and apparent shock and having
difficulty breathing. Hirschman advised the captain on how to stabilize
the victim and treat his injuries. No oxygen was available aboard the
vessel. "The injury was life-threatening, and medical evacuation was of
the utmost urgency," Job pointed out. Hirschman was joined by fellow
physician Peter Sosnow, W1KY, an emergency room trauma specialist.

The net remained open past its normal closing time to keep an ear on the
situation. Early the next morning, the captain of the Brandon Travis
informed the net that the injured man had been removed to a Honduran naval
vessel and taken to a hospital.

"Without the assistance of the net, this situation could have resulted in
the death of the crew member," Job added. The stabbing victim spent a
couple of days in the hospital and was released.

The captain of the Brandon Travis checked into the net two days after the
incident to thank everyone for their help. At the captain's request, the
net supplied him with a copy of ARRL Amateur Radio license study
materials.

"He was super impressed with the net's response and now has 14.300 in the
ship SSB radio's memory," Job said. "Chalk up another one for the good
guys."