Coast Guard makes daring nighttime rescue in rough seas off N.J.

A U.S. Coast Guard aircrew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescue a man from a sailboat approximately 200 miles southeast of New Jersey, April 10, 2020. 
(Screenshot from a U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City)

A U.S. Coast Guard aircrew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescue a man from a sailboat approximately 200 miles southeast of New Jersey, April 10, 2020. (Screenshot from a U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City)

A man was rescued Friday evening after an electrical fire sparked on a sailboat in rough seas about 200 miles southeast of Cape May, authorities said.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Delaware Bay command center was alerted via a satellite phone by a crewmember on the tanker vessel Hellas Poseidon that the person overhead a distress call on VHF-FM radio channel 16, according to a news release.

The Hellas Poseidon crew spotted black smoke about two miles from their location and located the disabled 25-foot sailboard Serena.

That’s when the Hellas Poseidon crewmember relayed to the Coast Guard that one person was aboard the sailboat, which was taking on water and had damaged communications equipment following a fire in the heavy seas, the release said.

Due to adverse weather conditions, the tanker crew could not assist the man but stayed with him until the Coast Guard arrived.

The Coast Guard launched an HC-130 Hercules airplane and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina to undertake the rescue.

The arriving aircrew determined that due to weather conditions, it was too dangerous to lower a rescue swimmer directly onto the boat, officials said. That’s when the rescuers told the man to enter the water with a lifejacket and meet the rescue swimmer, who quickly secured the man and hoisted to safety.

The man, who was not identified nor injured, told his rescuers that he was en route from North Carolina to New York and the storm caused flooding and the subsequent fire, according to the release.

“We would like to applaud the crew of the Hellas Poseidon. They not only quickly reported the distress call, but were able to locate the sailboat and make sure the man was safe until we arrived,” said Chief Warrant Officer Dan Capestany, the command duty officer during the case. “The actions of the Hellas Poseidon undoubtedly saved the man’s life. This sailor was lucky that someone heard his distress call since he was so far out in the open ocean. It demonstrates the need for proper safety equipment, amongst which are a registered emergency position-indicating radio beacon and life raft.”

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