NAS Key West Community
Atlantic Targets and Marine Operations Helps Rescue Mariner in Distress
Story by Donna M Cipolloni on 03/07/2019
NAWCAD’s Atlantic Targets and Marine Office (ATMO) played a vital role in rescuing a lone mariner aboard a sailboat that had caught fire on the Chesapeake Bay last week.
Around 10:30 a.m. Feb. 25, St. Mary’s County emergency services received a distress call from the sailboat reporting a fire onboard the vessel, and Engine 32 from the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department was initially dispatched.
Chief Charles Adams, Naval District Washington Fire Department/Pax River battalion, was monitoring the emergency services channel and when Engine 32 made contact with him, he indicated the nearest land-side location to the distressed vessel which was approximately 3.5 miles south of the installation was the ATMO facility, and the decision was made to stage from that location.
Pax River’s emergency services then dispatched EMTs and fire units to ATMO to assess the situation and alerted the Coast Guard, Maryland State Police Aviation Command, and the Department of Natural Resources to the situation.
When Chief Adams arrived on scene, he explained to ATMO personnel that calls had gone out to various local fire companies equipped to respond with support vessels, but weather conditions that day, plus their distance from the vessel in distress, made it impossible for them to assist in a timely fashion. He then requested assistance from ATMO, asking them to utilize one of the various vessels they use as an activity providing targets and maritime support for Navy testing.
With management approval, ATMO personnel manned a 56-foot vessel and a 28-foot vessel and headed out in the general direction of the sailboat. With assistance from the individual aboard the vessel, a Maryland State helicopter, and shore-based equipment at Pax River, the vessel’s exact location was pinpointed.
“After locating the vessel, ATMO personnel made verbal contact with the single occupant and confirmed the fire was extinguished, the vessel was in stable condition and he was no longer in danger,” said Dale Abell, ATMO branch head. “They then used the RHIB [rigid-hulled inflatable boat] to transfer the occupant to the 56-foot ATMO vessel where two Pax River EMTs were standing by to provide medical care.”
After transporting the vessel’s occupant back to the ATMO basin, an ambulance was waiting to take the patient to a local hospital.
“It was reported later that the individual was suffering from burns to one hand and possible smoke inhalation along with anxiety,” Abell noted.
Before leaving the sailboat, ATMO personnel made sure to contact the Coast Guard to report the vessel’s location for recovery and to submit a warning notice to other mariners in the area that the unoccupied vessel was adrift.
“I would like to recognize the crews at ATMO for their quick response and actions,” Adams said. “Due to dangerous wind conditions, the county rescue fire boats would’ve had a very hard time getting to the distress vessel, and a helicopter hoist rescue would’ve been nearly impossible. Their actions ensured a positive and rapid resolution to the situation.”
Abell noted that ATMO is one of the few vessel berthing locations directly on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay between Cedar Point and Point Lookout.
“Because of the location, vessel assets and experienced personnel, ATMO was able to respond to this emergency situation and assist a mariner in need,” he added.