Elizabeth City, NC - US Coast Guard rescuers pulled six people, including a 4-year-old girl, from a stricken sailboat Sunday as the vessel foundered in 30- to 50-knot winds and up to 30-foot seas off the coast of North Carolina near Bermuda.
The 47-foot sailboat named "Panache" was heading from Annapolis to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, according to Petty Officer Andrew Kendrick, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's Fifth District office in Portsmouth, Va.
The boat lost its engine power and a suffered a broken rudder, but crew and passengers -- unable to steer -- were able to keep the craft from capsizing by using a sea anchor and a storm sail, Kendrick said. "We were notified with a call that came from a satellite phone about 11:30," Kendrick said.
"Someone aboard had that phone when they needed it, as the boat became disabled." An HC-130J Hercules aircraft crew from Elizabeth City, N.C., marked the position of the sailboat, vectored the Elizabeth City MH-60J Jayhawk helicopter in and used a Forward Looking Infrared camera to capture this video.
After being hoisted to safety the six people were taken to Bermuda. During the hoist, the winds were more than 30 knots and the seas were 15 feet. (U.S. Coast Guard video/Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.)
Two Coast Guard aircraft, an HC-130-J Hercules plane and a Jayhawk helicopter, were sent from Elizabeth City, N.C., to the site about 430 miles east of North Carolina, Kendrick said. Rescue crew members aboard the helicopter could not get closer than 50 to 100 feet of the damaged sailboat as a mast swung in the high winds.
Instead, a rescue swimmer helped the boat's passengers into the water to a hoist that delivered them to safety aboard the helicopter.
The high winds and seas apparently were produced by a weather front that moved through the area, Kendrick said.
The C-130 circled above the rescue site, relaying dramatic radio conversations between the two aircraft crews, the damaged sailboat and Coast Guard officials in North Carolina and Virginia, Kendrick said. "With the helicopter hovering at 50 to 100 feet above the sailboat, radio needed a boost," Kendrick said. Once aboard the helicopter, all six people were flown to a Bermuda hospital.
They were identified as Shannon, Mark and 4-year-old Makenzie Olden, along with Rachael Slattery, Samuel Stanton and Jeffrey White. Coast Guard officials said at least two of those aboard the sailboat are residents of the United Kingdom. Kendrick said the Coast Guard was unable to contact any of the victims to determine where they live.
The rescue helicopter was refueled today by the Coast Guard cutter Legare in the Atlantic allowing the aircraft to return to its North Carolina base.
Update: Tuesday November 18, 2008 The sailboat is still drifting in the water near Bermuda. The boat's emergency transmitter was disabled by the US Coast Guard so that it wouldn't emit distress signals and alarm other boats. A notice was sent out to mariners telling them the boat is still adrift.