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SV Maria Elena

Medical Assistance - November 9, 2018

Maritime Mobile Service Network
For Immediate Release, 11/12/18
Prepared by Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL, Net Manager

On 11/9/18 at approximately 1650 hours UTC, a call for medical assistance was heard on 14.300 MHz by an amateur radio operator who alerted Donald Plunkett, VA6FH of Alberta, Canada who is a member of the Maritime Mobile Service Network.

The call was being made by Captain Nicholas Cancro, KC2WRH of the sailing vessel “Marie Elena”.

Captain Cancro reported he was approximately 300 miles east of Bermuda and that a crew member was having severe chest pains. The crew member needed medical assistance.

Fellow Maritime Mobile Service Network Operator Fred Moore, W3ZU of Inverness, Florida assisted VA6FH by contacting the “Marie Elena” vessel as he had good propagation with the vessel. He arranged with the Captain that if they should lose contact on 20 meters that they should have a prearranged frequency on 40 meters. This worked out quite well as W3ZU provided a phone patch with the United States Coast Guard Norfolk Station. The Coast Guard was able to connect the patient on board directly to medical personnel via the phone patch. They were able to ascertain symptoms and prescribe first aid measures prior to medical assistance arrival. This proved invaluable toward the total life-saving measures needed to sustain the patient until the Coast Guard had the resources in the area to actually be able to conduct a rescue. W3ZU set up a schedule with the “Marie Elena” to contact him at the bottom of the hour throughout the night and they were told to call immediately should the patient's medical condition worsen. W3ZU listened throughout the evening. It should be noted that the United States Air Force also came on the frequency during the emergency at the request of the Coast Guard to evaluate the situation and see if it was feasible for them to assist in any fashion.

Due to the sailboat’s distance offshore, US Coast Guard command center personnel directed the vessel’s operator to head towards Cape Hatteras. They then redirected the Coast Guard Cutter Spencer, who was underway near the Virginia-North Carolina border, towards the “Marie Elena”. The crew of the Spencer rendezvoused with the sailboat at about 1230 UTC on 11/10/18. They launched a small boat crew and transported the man aboard the cutter.  An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Elizabeth City launched at around 1330 UTC. The Jayhawk crew hoisted the man from the Spencer and transported him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.

All members of the Maritime Mobile Service Network were told that the rescue was conducted and that they could stand down.

W3ZU was assisted by a relay station Mark Strothmann, Sr., KC9YRX, of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin who provided much-needed information throughout the incident. There was also additional members of the Maritime Mobile Service Network on hand to relay needed information.

“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” states Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL, Net Manager of the Maritime Mobile Service Network.

The United States Coast Guard actually said it best in their statement via Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Unser, the search and rescue coordinator for this case "The assistance we received from the ham radio operators was crucial in helping us communicate with the vessel’s crew."

Authority: Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL
Net Manager