News // May 8, 2017

Air Station Houston To Receive Coast Guard Foundation Award

  • Coast Guard Foundation

The Coast Guard Foundation has selected Coast Guard Air Station Houston to be honored at the 2017 Tribute to the United States Coast Guard in Houston on May 24.

In the early morning of April 27, 2016, the crew of CGNR 6581 - LT Gross, LT Josh Scritchfield, AMT2 Nikki Moore, and AST2 Jesse Weaver - launched in their MH-65D helicopter to search for two fishermen whose boat was capsized by a large wave.

LT Gross and his crew were performing the final Coast Guard aerial search on this case. The search and rescue operation began two days earlier with Coast Guard rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, as well as Coast Guard small boats and numerous state and local partners engaged in a search for the men.

Finally, on the third day and after severe thunderstorms passed through the area the night before, the crew of CGNR 6581 located the two men injured but alive, clinging to the rusty pipes of an old oil wellhead.

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Michael Watkins and Raymond Jacik stand between Sector Houston-Galveston watchstanders on the left and Air Station Houston aircrew on the right during a reunion of rescued and rescuers at Air Station Houston, May 6, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams.

During the first aerial search on April 25, the Air Station Houston crew spotted the fisherman’s overturned and partially submerged boat. The rescue swimmer deployed to the water but there was no sign of the fishermen and no information to help assist in search planning. Fortunately, the warm water in Galveston Bay provided optimism for the collective rescue effort.

During the first aerial search on April 25, the Air Station Houston crew spotted the fisherman’s overturned and partially submerged boat. The rescue swimmer deployed to the water but there was no sign of the fishermen and no information to help assist in search planning. Fortunately, the warm water in Galveston Bay provided optimism for the collective rescue effort.

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Michael Watkins and Raymond Jacik hug and shake the hands of the Coast Guard crew that rescued them. Sherry Watkins and Mahlen Jacik watch and cry as husband Michael Watkins and father Raymond Jacik reunite with the Coast Guard crews that rescued them. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams.

Meanwhile, Sector Houston-Galveston watchstanders continued pursuing leads to refine the next morning’s first light search. They contacted two cellular companies to acquire GPS information from the fisherman’s phones and used the data to develop a specific timeline and location where the vessel may have capsized. With this new information, the watch standers adjusted their next pattern based on the notion that the fishermen could be clinging to nearby oil rigs.

With the probability of survival quickly diminishing, LT Gross and the crew of CGNR 6581 remained steadily engaged throughout their search. While conducting the final leg of their assigned pattern and low on fuel, LT Scritchfield spotted the first survivor clinging to a small oil wellhead protruding from the water.

On the final approach to a hover near the first survivor, AST2 Weaver spotted the second survivor hanging onto another oil wellhead protruding from the bay about 500 yards away. In a fuel-critical state after more than two hours of searching, LT Gross quickly evaluated the risk and elected to deploy the rescue swimmer.

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse Weaver and survivor Michael Watkins walk toward an ambulance after Watkins and his friend Raymond Jacik were rescued from being stranded for more than two days in Galveston Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams.

With time of the essence and minimal fuel remaining, AMT2 Moore and AST2 Weaver expeditiously prepared the aircraft and hoisted both men to safety. Together, their skillful actions rescued both men from peril and sped both to emergency medical services waiting at Sector Houston-Galveston headquarters.

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