The call came in at 4:10 a.m. from a crewman on platform East Cameron 328 to a watchstander at Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston. A 40-year-old crewman on board had panicked, become violent and taken too much medicine, and he needed medical attention.
Violent winds and driving rain delayed the launch of a rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Houston. The rescue helicopter crew waited at the ready until finally, at 6:30 a.m., there was a break in the weather and the crew launched.
"Because of the delay, we had a better idea of what we needed to plan for to prevent ourselves from becoming a rescue case," said Lt. Catherine Carabine, the co-pilot. "We were able to choose a refueling platform before we left and decided on the best course to fly."
To reach the platform faster and avoid the dangers of the weather, the crew flew above the cloud line, but this added a different element of danger to the mission. They had limited fuel, were 150 miles from shore and had no way of knowing how difficult the weather would make the rescue.
"I knew we had the fuel to get there and complete the hoist, but we would not have enough to make it back," aid Lt. David Potyok, the pilot. "I knew that if the clouds were too low, we would have difficulty finding the platform and the refueling station. Thankfully, we were able to get below the clouds, and find the rig."
Recovering the patient wasn't going to be easy. There was no landing pad and weather was proving to be troublesome.
"The winds were 35 to 45 knots and it was raining," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Musial, the flight mechanic. "Also, since the rig had a crane we had to operate form a higher than normal altitude. All these factors combined, made for a difficult hoist."
Working together, he crew was able to hoist the man into the helicopter. The challenge now became finding the refueling platform. Taking a risk, the pilot flew below the clouds to increase their chances. His gamble paid off as they quickly located the platform and refueled.
After a grueling five hour mission, the tired crew delivered the patient safely to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital. They then took a well earned rest on land before returning home. Despite the ever-present dangers and looming obstacles, it was another mission completed, another life saved, another day for Air Station Houston.
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