The SS Marine Electric sunk amidst a strong storm off the coast of Virginia on Feb. 12, 1983. Of the crew of 34, only three survived. In response to the sinking, the Coast Guard convened a marine board to investigate the causes surrounding the disaster. The resulting report was released 30 years ago this summer and would significantly alter the safety culture throughout the maritime community.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Peter MacDougall recalled the dark and stormy nights he went out into, knowing his wife could hear the helicopter take off from their house, imagining the anxiety it caused her. He spoke about the close calls. He spoke about survivors he rescued from the grip of the sea, and the men and women he served alongside who made each of his 40 years of service special.
“Joshua James exhibited a commitment to excellence that permeates the Coast Guard to this day,” said Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger. “He embodied the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty and the guiding principles articulated in our new Commandant’s Direction long before we ever wrote them down.”
Listening to the helicopter’s rotor blades slice through the night sky while watching his feet dangle above the turbulent water, the words “never quit,” repeated over and over in his head. Never quit – words Seaman Derrian Duryea repeated to himself before high school swim meets and now words he lives by as a Coast Guardsman.
“Our goal was to get them out of the channel as fast as possible. There was no way the cargo ship would have seen them. The ship was approaching at about 15-20 knots. We only had about 15 minutes to get them out of the channel before being hit.”
The 24 hours of sunlight, enormous marine mammals and vast emptiness create an environment unlike any in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that the melting ice is enticing adventure seekers to experience the untouched frontier. As vessel traffic increases, so does the chance for an accident in this inherently dangerous maritime region. It’s the inevitability of peril that drives many Coast Guard missions, and those missions extend all the way into the Nation’s Arctic. When an adventure on the Chukchi Sea took a turn for the worse, the Coast Guard was ready to respond.
On May 1, Coast Guard aircrews took to the sky to search for two downed Navy pilots whose plane had crashed somewhere off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas. Fortunately, a rescue helicopter crew found and rescued them. Both men were later released from Spohn Shoreline Memorial Hospital where they were treated for minor injuries.But what happened to their plane? Someone needed to recover it.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Blair Petterson, an aviation electronics technician at Coast Guard Air Station Astoria, Ore., made a series of decisions that led him to the Coast Guard. It was at the air station that Petterson would conduct his first rescue as a member of a flight crew, which was also caught on video and would be highlighted on the television show “Coast Guard Cape Disappointment/Pacific Northwest.”
Say the word hoax out loud. It sounds similar to the noise you might make if something was stuck in your throat. Just like something stuck in your throat, hoaxes are obstructions to the life-saving work that the Coast Guard does. Hoaxes waste vital search and rescue resources and unnecessarily put the men and women who selflessly serve as first responders at risk.
Last week, Coast Guard aircrews conducted rescue training in San Luis Pass at the southwestern end of Galveston Island, Texas. From morning to afternoon, the crewmembers hoisted mock survivors to MH-65 Dolphin helicopters in many different ways to simulate the various scenarios they could face on any given day.