Three crew members of the fishing vessel, Bear, were airlifted to safety by a US Coastguard helicopter after their boat ran aground in Aniakchak Bay, 196 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska. The crew were able to alert the emergency services to their situation by activating their E5 SMARTFIND Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), manufactured by McMurdo.
The US Coastguard received the EPIRB’s emergency signal via the COSPAS SARSAT international search and rescue system at 0323 on 30th August. This gave the first indication that the F/V Bear required assistance, and indicated the vessel’s location. The Coastguard were able to identify the vessel as the 52-foot Homer-registered vessel, via the EPIRB’s registration details.
Having received the initial alert, the Coastguard was then able to contact the vessel’s captain via sat-phone, who confirmed the severity of the situation; the crew had donned their survival suits and were taking to the life raft.
The Coastguard helicopter was consequently scrambled from Air Station Kodiak, arriving on the scene at 0625. Despite poor weather conditions and low visibility, the rescue team were able to locate the stricken vessel quickly and efficiently by homing in on the EPIRB’s secondary 121.5MHz signal.
Lt. Matthew Breckel, aircraft commander aboard the Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, says; “The crew had done really well to prepare themselves. They had activated their 406 MHz EPIRB and, using our directional finding equipment, we were able to get a good bearing on them from some 20 miles out.”
On arrival at the scene, a rescue swimmer was immediately deployed from the helicopter into the water to begin airlifting the crew from the liferaft. By 0843, all three crewmembers had been safely recovered and delivered by the helicopter to the air station, where medical attention was deemed unnecessary.
The crew, all fishermen from the local area, had been long-lining for Halibut. They were extremely pleased to have received the assistance of the Coastguard. Crewman Garrett Doktor described the rescue team as “heroes”.
“We were in a tight spot,” he said, “and they got us out of there.”