Monday, June 11, 2007

Cheating Death On The High Seas

When we talk about the fury of mother nature, no matter if its a flood, tornado, hurricane, or a rogue wave, the mechanics of the event are normally a story in itself. But there is always, the other side of the story.

That story is the story of the rescue operations and the compelling story of the survivors.

This photograph was taken of the rescue of the crew of the s/v Sean Seamour II from the USCG J-Hawk Rescue Helicopter. It again gives us another plane of view of the monstrous sea states at the time of rescue. And this may have been the smaller of the waves that caused the sinking of the 44 foot, s/v Sean Seamour II.

At this view its difficult to estimate the size of the wave in this photograph, but monstrous maybe a understatement. There are just no words to express or define this picture. It's just an incredible and frightening picture! Note the height of the wave peak at the top in comparison to the life raft below. The waves heights were estimated by UCSG Command Pilot Lt.CMDR Nevada C. Smith ( named after the famed wild west cowboy in the 1937 movie the "carpetbaggers") piloting the USCG J-Hawk Rescue Helicopter, to be between 50 to 70 feet.

Also take note of the distance between the waves. and how close they are to each other. Just an amazing photo and a amazing tail of survival and rescue. The Hatteras Trench is definitely living up to its violent reputation here. Not just is it amazing that the crew of the s/v Sean Seamour II, who suffered from a severe case of hypothermia and injury, survived to be rescued. But the rescue itself was indeed most difficult and amazing. Hovering a helicopter in winds estimated between 60 to 80 MPH and with waves of 50 to 70 feet, was no small feat for Lt.CMDR Smith his Co-Pilot LTJG Aaron G. Nelson and Flight Mechanic Petty Officer Scott Higgens.

While deciding to launch and monitor a rescue swimmer and survivors in these conditions is entirely another difficult and painful command decision. For any rescue swimmer not just to stabilize himself in these waters, but to stabilize the rescue basket with a survivor in these types of waters, that rescue swimmer needed to be super-human, and in the case of USCG Chief Petty Officer Drew Dazzo, super-human maybe also a understatement. These USCG rescue swimmers are unsung hero's and in this case, the rescue was just not difficult, but it resulted in injury to
rescue swimmer, PO Drew Dazzo.

PO Dazzo himself had a very difficult time stabilizing himself in the water, since the steep pitch of these monstrous waves had PO Dazzo, who was tethered to a safety wire from the helicopters hoist, feeling like he was in the, spin cycle of a washer machine. PO Dazzo was hanging either very taught or very slack on his safety wire as he pitched and rolled with these waves. During his initial insertion into the stormy seas and while he was stabilizing, it is believed that one of the waves dropped from under him as he crested the wave and then suddenly dropped some 50 to 70 feet, over the other side
causing painful injury to PO Dazzo's back. .

Though injured and hurting, PO Dazzo continued with the rescue operations, saving the rest of the s/v Sean Seamour crew. The final rescue of the last crew member of the s/v Sean Seamour II became very laborious for the injured PO Dazzo and after a failed attempt in using a rescue sling, he once again called for the rescue basket. PO Dazzo then reentered the water to retrieve the
GPIRB. Once back on board the J-Hawk Helicopter, PO Dazzo laid on the floor of the helicopter in pain and was hospitalized, along with the crew of the s/v/ Sean Seamour II.

On top of that prior to this harrowing period, the Master of the s/v Sean Seamour II, being tossed around like a rag doll by the waves, had broken his ribs. Anyone who has broken ribs before understands pain. The slightest jarring is very painful. Imagine riding this roller coaster of waves and wind with broken ribs for an extended period of time? The other two crew members were tossed violently around the cabin and one suffered some back trauma, while the brutality of the wave did not just flip them in a 360 about the cabin, but caused the s/v Sean Seamour II to immediately list to the starboard.

But as I am informed, that did not deter the Master from attaching the GPIRB and freeing the raft from his stricken sail boat and struggling to care for his crew, while his crew made sure they took care of him, knowing that he was injured and weaving
in and out of semi-consciousness . The Master of the s/v Sean Seamour II, lived up to the honorable code of a Ships Master by tending to the safety of his crew during the emergency. I cannot say enough about his two friends and crew mates. Knowing that their friend and Captain was injured, they made sure that he was first in the rescue basket.

They are truly a "band of brothers" today.


Previous Posts;
The s/v Sean Seamour II & The Hatteras Trench
High Sea's Update On Sean Seamour II
The Story of the Sailing Vessel Sean Seamour II