Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

At 9:30 pm on the first day we boarded the ship, four and a half hours after we left the port of San Diego just as we were finishing up our first meal in the ship dining room, the captain came on the PA system with an important announcement.  He said there was an emergency on board, a passenger needed immediate medical attention, and we had to go back to San Diego.

What??  Sonofabitch.

That's when we met Steve.  He was walking on deck when I asked him the time.  Before we knew it all three of us were debating about what we would do if we were the captain.  Turning around was not one of our solutions.

I bet Ed and Steve a hundred dollars that it was a man.  That he probably wasn't feeling well before the cruise and his wife told him they probably shouldn't go.  And that's when he said, "We're going.  I paid for this damn trip and we're getting on that ship."  And he did.  And then he had a heart attack.

Later in the cruise we heard that he had triple-bypass heart surgery and was still in the hospital, but that he was fine.  We got a little more detail about why they couldn't send a Coast Guard boat or helicopter out to us since we weren't too far out.  But they determined that he wouldn't have been able to be airlifted in his condition.  I'm guessing his wife got off the ship with him but we were told the rest of his family continued on to Hawaii.

So, we had that.  But oh no, the excitement wasn't over yet.

A few days later, en route to Maui, there was another announcement by the captain.  He was asking the passengers to either go back to their cabin or, just sit down and stay put wherever they were at the moment.  The reason?  We were called upon by the US Coast Guard to assist in a rescue operation of the pilot of a downed plane.  The captain said that because the ship would be slowing down quickly there might be a bit of erratic movement and he didn't want anyone falling and getting hurt.

Ed and I immediately made our way up to the Crow's Nest to get a better view.  And what a view we had - everything was happening right outside the windows that wrapped around the uppermost point on the bow of the ship.

The first thing we saw was a US Coast Guard C-130 plane circling the downed Cessna SR22 plane.  The plane has its own parachute system, which you can see in this photo.  If used properly, this parachute can save the life of the pilot.  

 Here's Ed taking pictures of the plane.
In the picture below you can see more clearly the tail of the plane and the attached parachute.  Once the pilot was rescued, the plane was just left in the ocean, about 230 miles off the coast of Maui. 

The pilot was flying from Tracy, California and ran out of fuel.  He couldn't make it to the island and contacted the Coast Guard to tell them that he needed assistance.  The Coast Guard contacted our ship, the ms Veendam, and coordinated with the pilot to ditch the plane close to the cruise ship so the staff on the ship could go out in one of the lifeboats to get the him.  You can watch video of the pilot ditching the plane here.  

Below, some of the crew watch the rescue lifeboat below.  In the background you can see the Coast Guard plane, who was circling the ship after he made sure we had everything under control.  He then buzzed us a few times before he took off.
Ed got this shot of our crew and the pilot in the lifeboat.  The pilot is in the green shirt, not wearing a helmet.  
It was a very exciting event and I'm sure the pilot was thrilled that not only did he run out of fuel during daylight hours, but that there was a cruise ship nearby to help him.  I'm sure he was scared having to ditch the plane as he did and he's very fortunate he hit the water as he did.  We were told it could have been worse, causing him injury or even death.  Once onboard, the ship's medical staff checked him out to make sure he was okay and then I'm pretty sure they probably fed him.

What's the use of being on a cruise ship if you can't eat every twenty minutes?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: ¡Bienvenido! 
2013: We Couldn't Catch Him
2012: It’s Vital For My Existence
2011: Boxed In By Hills
2010: Ask A Trucker
2009: Getting Our Truck Tweaked While Making New Friends And Enjoying A Free Lunch Pie*
2008: Sunglasses Also Required Here
2007: Windows Vista, Trucker Style
2006: Being A Girl Again
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!


Anonymous said...

Hooray for the Coast Guard! My "Coastie" son, Bobby, tells me they often lead very exciting lives. In his almost 9 years in the Coast Guard, he has rescued sea turtles, sinking boats, Russell Crowe and participated in the "miracle on the Hudson". SEMPER PARATUS !!!

The Daily Rant said...

MI: I know! Exciting, huh? I guess this ship we were on was also involved in other sea rescues. But I think Bobby's story of rescuing Russel Crowe has got to be the best one I've heard so far! They are definitely "always ready"!