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- The Coast Guard on Saturday evacuated a passenger on a cruise 300 miles offshore from Alabama.
- Video showed the first helicopter that was sent had to abort the rescue due to severe weather.
- The helicopter came close to the water, but the Coast Guard said “superb piloting” helped save it.
A Coast Guard helicopter attempting to perform a rescue from a cruise ship on Saturday nearly crashed into the ocean when weather conditions worsened, but was saved thanks in part to “superb piloting,” the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard received a call early Saturday morning for a medical evacuation from a Carnival cruise ship located about 300 miles offshore from Fort Morgan, Alabama, according to a statement. A 76-year-old passenger aboard the Carnival Dream was experiencing heart attack-like symptoms.
Two aircraft were launched to respond to the call, including an HC-144 Ocean Sentry, a patrol aircraft, and an MH-60 Jayhawk, a recovery helicopter.
Videos shared online showed the helicopter hovering over the cruise ship, appearing very shaky and making sudden, jerking movements. The helicopter then turns away from the cruise ship but takes a sharp dive down toward the ocean. It appears to stop and hover just above the water before recovering.
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The Coast Guard said in a statement that a “severe squall,” a sudden and violent gust of wind, caused the Jayhawk crew to move away from the ship, adding: “The helicopter then encountered a severe downwind, prompting the aircrew to recover the aircraft close to the water’s surface.”
The Jayhawk helicopter and the Ocean Sentry were able to return safely to base.
Another Jayhawk helicopter crew later returned and was able to successfully complete the evacuation, transferring the passenger to the hospital in stable condition.
The Coast Guard also shared a video of the successful medical evacuation.
Cmdr. Keith Blair, commanding officer at Air Station New Orleans, credited the Jayhawk crew of the first helicopter for avoiding a crash during the storm.
“During the rescue, the aircrew experienced severe and rapidly deteriorating weather that forced them to abort the mission,” Blair said in a statement. “Through exceptional real-time risk management, crew resource management, and superb piloting, the aircrew was able to safely recover the aircraft and land at the air station without further incident.”
Carnival did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The US Coast Guard frequently conducts search and rescue missions and medical evacuations on cruise ships. Over the weekend, the Coast Guard rescued four passengers from three separate cruise ships over the course of 24 hours in Southern California alone, Cruise Hive reported.
In December, the Coast Guard rescued a cruise ship passenger who spent over 20 hours in open water after going overboard. Lt. Seth Gross, who oversees search and rescue missions in the greater Louisiana Gulf Coast area, said his rescue crew arrived just in time to save the man’s life.
“This is what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Gross told Insider at the time, adding he thinks “one of the main reasons that people join the Coast Guard is to serve the American people in times of distress.”