Ail­ing sailor saved in wind and waves

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE -

KENT POINT — United Com­mu­ni­ties Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment in Stevensville and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice spear­headed the res­cue of a man hav­ing a di­a­betic emer­gency aboard a sail­boat in East­ern Bay on Thurs­day, Nov. 16.

About 6:30 p.m. Thurs­day, units from the United Com­mu­ni­ties Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment were alerted for an un­known marine res­cue in the East­ern Bay off Kent Point.

Lit­tle in­for­ma­tion was avail­able ini­tially about the specifics of the ex­act na­ture of the emer­gency, but re­spond­ing crews knew any re­sponse into the bay that evening was go­ing to be a chal­lenge with winds gust­ing to 24 knots and seas swelling at 4 to 5 feet, said UCVFD pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer R. Scott Svo­boda.

As ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion was re­layed to re­spond­ing crews by the Queen Anne’s County De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices 911 Cen­ter, the res­cue sce­nario was be­com­ing more com­plex by the minute.

Within a minute from the ini­tial dis­patch, UCVFD land units were re­spond­ing to the re­quest for as­sis­tance. Only five min­utes later, UCVFD Fire­boat 9, a 30-foot Me­talCraft cus­tom built fire/res­cue ves­sel, de­ployed from the ma­rina at the Cove Creek Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Ro­man­coke with a crew of four, in­clud­ing three emer­gency med­i­cal technicians and one para­medic, Svo­boda said.

Af­ter sev­eral at­tempts, the 911 cen­ter made cell­phone con­tact with a Tow Boat US op­er­a­tor on the East­ern Bay who was able to pro­vide more de­tails on the emer­gency un­fold­ing on the wa­ter. A 31-foot sail­ing ves­sel that lost power was in tow with one per­son on­board. The man on board the sail­ing ves­sel had no marine ra­dio and had lost cell­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

At some point dur­ing the tow, the sail­boat oc­cu­pant said he was hav­ing a di­a­betic emer­gency on­board his ves­sel, and was get­ting com­bat­ive and ag­i­tated as de­scribed by the tow­boat op­er­a­tor dur­ing his ini­tial dis­tress call to emer­gency ser­vices, Svo­boda said.

Due to sea con­di­tions, the tow boat had no safe way to abort its tow­ing op­er­a­tion and help the man, and had to con­tinue to pull the sail­ing ves­sel in the rough seas of the East­ern Bay. Af­ter about five min­utes, all com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the vic­tim of the med­i­cal emer­gency were lost.

When Fire­boat 9 left the ma­rina and en­coun­tered heavy and dan­ger­ous sea con­di­tions, vol­un­teers re­quested ad­di­tional marine re­sources, ini­ti­at­ing a mu­tual aid re­sponse from Tal­bot County Fire­boat 70 (Til­gh­man Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment) with a crew of seven, Svo­boda said. Also en route were as­sets from the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice.

Within 25 min­utes of ini­tial dis­patch, UCVFD Fire­boat 9 was on lo­ca­tion with the ves­sel in tow, but vol­un­teers had no safe way to board the boat to try to pro­vide aid to the di­a­betic emer­gency. Fire­boat Of­fi­cer in Charge, Deputy Chief Rick Rin­gen­back de­cided both Fire­boat 9 and a Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice ves­sel would es­cort the boat in tow into Kent Point Ma­rina to land units await­ing the man on­board.

As the emer­gency sit­u­a­tion moved to­ward Kent Point, sea con­di­tions wors­ened, and due to the sail­boat’s sail be­ing in the par­tially up po­si­tion, the tow­boat op­er­a­tor deter­mined he could not con­trol the boat enough to make it into the ma­rina, Svo­boda said. That plan was aborted, and a pa­tient trans­fer had to be made on the bay.

All ves­sels changed their course due east in an at­tempt to find calmer waters to make the pa­tient trans­fer, he said. Af­ter pro­ceed­ing about a mile, the bay waters sub­sided slightly and a dif­fi­cult pa­tient trans­fer was made onto UCVFD Fire­boat 9 by fire per­son­nel and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice of­fi­cers for treat­ment and trans­port to await­ing land-based med­i­cal units.

The Stevensville rman was taken by Fire­boat 9 to Cove Creek Com­mu­nity Ma­rina, and pa­tient care was trans­ferred to med­i­cal per­son­nel from the Queen Anne’s County De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices Para­medic Unit 100. Af­ter ini­tial eval­u­a­tion and treat­ment, the pa­tient ul­ti­mately re­fused trans­port to a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity, Svo­boda said. Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice as­sisted in com­plet­ing the tow of the ves­sel to Lip­pin­cott Ma­rina in Gra­sonville.

The en­tire in­ci­dent pro­gressed for nearly two hours un­der the com­mand of UCVFD’s Chief Christo­pher Tona Sr., Svo­boda said, adding a to­tal of three marine res­cue ves­sels, four land units and 22 per­son­nel op­er­ated dur­ing this in­ci­dent.


This sum­mer file photo shows United Com­mu­ni­ties Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment’s Fire and Res­cue Boat.

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