By SUSANNA RAY
Helicopter pilots aboard the Everett-based USS Abraham Lincoln braved a Persian Gulf storm recently to rescue a sailor who had a heart attack on a smaller Navy ship.
“You see this sort of thing maybe once every three years,” Cmdr. Jim Kruse, the executive officer of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Four, said in a news release from the Lincoln. “The weather was as bad as it gets in the gulf.”
The crew had planned a “milk run to the beach” on Nov. 5. That’s Navy slang for a flight to shore to pick up parts and supplies. The weather was stormy but not bad enough to keep them from flying.
As they were preparing to take off, however, they were diverted to the USNS Kane, a minesweeper. A sailor had suffered a heart attack and needed medical attention from doctors on the Lincoln. The aircraft carrier left Everett in August and is almost halfway through its six-month deployment to the gulf, where it is enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
The small ship was about 25 miles away, but the helicopter crew had a tough time finding it, since it doesn’t have equipment to transmit navigational frequencies. Once they located it, they had to figure out a way to lower a search and rescue swimmer onto the Kane’s deck, which was pitching 15 to 20 degrees from the 40-mile-per-hour winds and 8- to 10-foot sea swells.
“It was the worst weather I have seen in the gulf,” said Lt. j.g. Jason Douthit, the pilot. “The ship was literally bobbing out of the water. … At times we could see the stern and the screws popping out of the sea.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Weiss finally succeeded in lowering down the swimmer, Chief Petty Officer Russ Moser, and all the equipment necessary, in four passes over the minesweeper.
“I had never done anything like this,” Moser said. “Because we train as realistically as possible, we were successful.”
They transported the sailor back to the Lincoln, where he was treated for about 24 hours before being taken to a hospital in Bahrain.
“It just goes to show how flexible you have to be,” Douthit said. “You wake up in the morning expecting to do a milk run to the beach and wind up doing one of the most challenging things a helo pilot can face.”
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