U.S. Coast Guard
MCKINLEYVILLE/EEL RIVER – Friday night at 12:34 a.m. the U.S. Coast Guard received a request from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to assist a man who was dangerously close to being washed into the Eel River by raging floodwaters.
Sector Humboldt Bay in McKinleyville dispatched RESCUE 6558, a MH-65D helicopter, with four crewmen onboard to render assistance.
While en route to the flooded Eel River, the Coast Guard crew was informed that a single male had been camping on a gravel bar that had been cut off from shore by rising storm waters for three days and was now in danger of being washed down river by the torrent.
Using night vision goggles, searchlights, and direction from on scene Sheriff deputies, the crew of RESCUE 6558 found the man clinging to tree branches with no solid ground to stand on. Combating gale force winds and driving rain, the crew used intricate coordination to lower rescue swimmer Jon Rice to the man, who was then hoisted aboard the helicopter.
Having successfully recovered the survivor, the crew flew to Rohnerville Airport in Fortuna, where awaiting emergency medical services transfered him to Redwood Memorial Hospital for further evaluation.
Lieutenant Josh Smith, one of the two pilots aboard RESCUE 6558 stated, “It was a very challenging hoisting scenario. There were several gusts over 35 knots that required large and abrupt control inputs to the helicopter. Matt Lawrence, our flight mechanic, did an outstanding job on his first live hoist.”
Commander Kevin Barres was the fourth member of the crew. The Coast Guard has prosecuted five search and rescue cases and saved two citizens in connection with this week’s storm. Individuals and families venturing outdoors and living in remote areas are
asked to take appropriate safety precautions with the ongoing hazardous weather to avoid the need for assistance from emergency response agencies.