Awards for heroic rescues at sea will be bestowed on ship captains and crews and individual maritime professionals in an Association for Rescue at Sea ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Tuesday, Nov. 2nd.
A U.S. Coast Guard member, two U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarists, a cruise ship captain and crew and the captains and crews of two commercial ships involved in a joint rescue comprise the 2021 class of this annual AFRAS event. U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal will host the event at the Rayburn House Office Building, where senior maritime leaders will be in attendance, including the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz, who will make remarks.
VADM THOMAS SARGENT III GOLD MEDAL
Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Wallace C. Qual led a beach rescue team that responded to a vessel grounding at Yaquina Bay, Ore., saving a life Sep. 8, 2020.
Petty Officer Qual went into action after the captain of the 44-foot fishing vessel Legend abandoned ship in weather so heavy that both surface and air search and rescue (SAR) craft could not safely attempt a rescue. Once on scene, Qual and his crew from Station Yaquina Bay faced 60-70 knot winds, 6–8-foot surf, poor visibility – and smoke from a local wildfire.
Qual, in survival gear and swimmer harness tended by his team beachside, entered the water and fought heavy surf to save the captain and bring him back ashore. Qual not only risked his life to save that of the captain, but once safely ashore – coughing up seawater and exhausted – instructed his crew to provide first aid to the stricken mariner first.
AFRAS SILVER MEDAL
Coast Guard Auxiliarists Shelley and Gary Markle responded to a radio call for help while on a training mission on Lake Michigan, off Chicago Aug. 8, 2020. The Markles took charge of the hectic scene of a missing swimmer, who was located under water and brought back to the surface, where Shelley performed CPR until fire and EMS personnel arrived on scene.
The Markles were returning to Burnham Harbor on their personal watercraft (PWC), after completing SAR training on their personal time, when a calm voice came on VHF Channel 16 asking, “Can you hear us?” Conditions on the water were deteriorating. The clearness of the emergency channel transmission led the Markles to believe that the call was coming from nearby, and they soon found the source of the call – someone saw a swimmer enter the water, go under and not surface.
Gary called in their position to the Coast Guard, while Shelley set up a safety perimeter in the area crowded with pleasure boats. Other swimmers located the missing man, on the bottom in 12 feet of water; they dove down and retrieved him. The Markles kept the local Coast Guard station apprised of the evolving situation, via radio. The recovered swimmer was not breathing. Gary was already in the water, providing assistance, and Shelley joined him – leaving her PWC in the crowded area to swim to and board the boat that called for help, where the unresponsive swimmer was brought. She took control of the situation, providing first aid and directing others to assist in the rescue operation.
When fire and EMS personnel arrived at the seawall hundreds of feet from their position, Gary used his PWC to pick up a firefighter with full medical kit and transport him to the boat where Shelley was aiding the victim. More rescue resources arrived on-scene, and eventually took over from the Markles. The victim was confirmed revived when eventually transferred to a shoreside ambulance.
CRUISE SHIP HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE AWARD
The captain and crew of the cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy saved a life after responded to a mayday while departing an anchorage at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Nov. 17, 2020.
The crew effected a transfer of a yacht crewmember who was injured aboard the vessel due to rough seas. While observing COVID-19 safety protocols, the Ecstasy crew provided overnight medical care aboard the cruise ship until a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter arrived to medically evacuate the victim the next morning.
During the evening change of watch on Ecstasy’s bridge, a mayday was received from the yacht Balista, four miles away, reporting the injured crewmember. The cruise ship captain ordered the ship to the scene, and the rescue operation began. Once on-scene, Ecstasy’s crew lowered a tender boat, with the ship’s doctor aboard, and safely boarded the Balista. The patient was safely transferred to the tender on a stretcher, then brought aboard Ecstasy and taken to the ship’s medical center for care, lasting until early morning hours.
After an aircraft ditched in the Pacific Ocean more than 1,000 miles from Oahu, Hawaii, the crews of the commercial ships Ariel and Horizon Reliance worked to rescue the two survivors from a life raft, in rough seas, Nov. 7, 2020. The ships’ captains agreed to participate in the rescue after a request via the Amver program.
After receiving notification that the aircraft had ditched, personnel at the U.S. Coast Guard’s 14th District command center, in Honolulu, located the Ariel and Horizon Reliance and requested assistance. Ariel arrived on-scene, located the survivors and attempted the first rescue – at night, in 8–10-foot seas with 30 knot winds. Unable to safely rescue the survivors in their life raft, Ariel remained on scene to provide communications and lee, while Horizon Reliance arrived on-scene and its crew successfully battled the conditions to effect the rescue.
M/v Ariel is an oil tanker flagged in the Marshall Islands; m/v Horizon Reliance is a U.S. flagged container ship. The captain and crew of Horizon Reliance were previously bestowed AFRAS’ Amver award for taking part in two rescues in 2012, which resulted in saving three Canadians and an 81-year-old American sailor.
The annual AFRAS Capitol Hill Gold Medal Ceremony was cancelled in 2020, due to COVID-19. Those who would have been honored then will be part of this year’s ceremony, with awards for mariners and aviators making daring rescues during calendar 2019 being bestowed.
AFRAS helps protect mariners from the perils of the sea by providing monetary and in-kind donations to world volunteer maritime search and rescue organizations. The charity also recognizes and honors extraordinary maritime rescues through its awards program and annual ceremony. AFRAS is a 501(c)3 non-profit charity. Visit AFRAS online to learn more about the organization, or to make a charitable donation.