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US 4th Fleet Patrol Aircraft, Coast Guard Assists Distressed Vessel

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS121203-13

By Lt. j.g. Jonathan Messer, Patrol Squadron 8 Public Affairs

COMALAPA, El Salvador (NNS) -- The crew of a P-3C Orion aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 "Fighting Tigers" responded to a vessel in distress while on patrol in the Western Caribbean Sea conducting Operation Martillo counter transnational organized crime operations Nov. 27.

U.S. Coast Guard District 7 Command Center in Miami, Fla., received a distress beacon from 160 miles west of Jamaica and immediately began coordinating search and rescue assets in the area.

Three U.S. citizens aboard the 46-foot catamaran "Palenque" were delivering the vessel to the owners when they struck a submerged object and took on water. According to the crew, the bilge pump was unable to keep up with the onrush of water causing the vessel to list badly.

"When we received the message about the emergency beacon we were already low on fuel. With people possibly already in the water, we knew that we would have to make it last and stay on scene as long as possible," plane commander, Lt. Ryan Seligman, said.

Upon locating the vessel, the aircrew aboard the airplane descended to investigate the distressed vessel's condition and provide assistance. The boat was listing heavily to the starboard side and drifting northwest unpowered. After radio contact was made with the crew, the vessel was determined have a suitable life raft and survival equipment and the crew abandoned the boat. The vessel had already taken on four feet of water and sunk. The aircrew located and contacted the merchant vessel Cap Domingo to help with the rescue.

The survivors were successfully rescued and taken to the port in Cartagena, Colombia where the U.S. Embassy coordinated their return to the United States.

"This situation could have turned into a huge tragedy if they were not there or able to respond," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Joseph Medina of the U.S. Coast Guard District 7 Command Center.

The aircraft departed the scene and returned to Comalapa, El Salvador where the airplanes are currently positioned to support Operation Martillo and U.S. 4th Fleet.

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