On August 8, the Coast Guard Foundation honored the heroic efforts of three Coast Guard air crews that saved the lives of four men adrift in frigid waters for three days at our Alaska Awards Dinner in Anchorage. The crews awarded were CG-1709, CG-1790, and CG-6010, two search planes and rescue helicopter.
The evening featured a keynote address by Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp, and honored guests included Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, Congressman Don Young, and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.
On May 24, four men boarded an 18-foot Lund skiff and embarked on a hunting trip from the tiny coastal village of Platinum, Alaska. The men were headed for a small island off of Cape Newenham, when they ran into a storm. In an attempt to avoid the bad weather, the men piloted their boat behind an ice floe for shelter and got stuck. Eventually they ran out of gas, and could not escape from the ice floe.
The family of the missing men called Alaska State Police to report them overdue. The state troopers in turn asked for the Coast Guard's help in finding the men. However, another skiff with the same number of people onboard was located shortly after that call, leading the troopers to mistakenly believe the boat had been found, and cancelling the search.
By Sunday, May 27, the men were still missing, and their family members again contacted the state police to tell them the men had not returned home yet. At this point the Coast Guard's 17th District command dispatched CG-1790, a Hercules C-130 search plane, to look for the missing boat.
The conditions the morning of the 27th were typical of Alaskan spring —temperatures in the high 30s, winds blowing 25 knots, six-foot high seas, 200 yards visibility, and near-freezing water temperatures. The Coast Guard C-130 had completed nearly 70 percent of their assigned search area, when the crew needed to refuel in Kodiak. As they were turning back, the crew heard a faint "MAYDAY" call over their radio coming from the missing skiff.
The crew of CG-1790 continued searching, and eventually located the skiff on radar about 40 nautical miles from where they initially heard the "MAYDAY" call. Due to poor visibility, though, the crew could not make visual contact. In need of fuel, the plane marked the skiff's position, and returned to Air Station Kodiak, while dispatching another search plane, CG-1709, as well as a helicopter, CG-6010, to the location of the skiff.
CG-1709 relieved the CG-1790 on scene, relocated the vessel and established communications with the defunct skiff. The CG-6010 broke out of the clouds at about 100 feet, conducted the hoist and took the four survivors to Dillingham for evaluation. All the men on board were reported to be in good health and spirits.
The skiff was located 60 miles from the defined search area and 180 nautical miles from their departure location. Thanks to the diligence and professionalism of the aircrews the lives of four people were saved that day.