USCG Auxiliary Patrol Awarded for Saving Distressed Kayakers From Oncoming Cargo Ship

Friday, November 14, 2014

Richmond, Virginia – Auxiliarists from Auxiliary Vessel 30344 were awarded with the  U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Medal of Operational Merit for saving three kayakers, two of them in the water without a life jacket on, from an oncoming 16,000 ton cargo ship during a 5th Southern District Awards Ceremony.

The Crew of Auxiliary Operational Facility 30344 is awarded their Medals of Operational Merit. USCG Auxiliary Photo by Charles McLeod.

The Crew of Auxiliary Vessel 30344 is awarded their Medals of Operational Merit on September 27, 2014. From left to right standing are: USCG RADM Metruck, Aux. Holly Johnson, Aux. Bruce Johnson, Aux. Ted Bauer, and Aux. Tyrone Keys (Aux. Paul Moran received the award but was unable to attend the ceremony). USCG Auxiliary Photo by Charles McLeod.

USCG Auxiliary Article by James Chin, National New Media Branch Chief

On July 9, 2014 at 7:55 PM, Auxiliary Vessel 30344 was patrolling on the Patapsco River when they came upon three kayakers in a dire emergency next to the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Two of the kayakers were in the water without life jackets on after their kayaks had sunk while the third was desperately trying to pull them away from the middle of an active shipping channel with a tow line.  Their only form of communication, a cell phone, sunk. To make matters worse, the 16,000 ton Neatherlands flagged Singelgraacht was only a quarter of a mile away and approaching the channel.

According to Crewman Tyrone Keys, who initially spotted the kayakers, stated, “Low light conditions combined with the fact that the kayakers had no visual or audible signaling device and were languishing in an active shipping channel was a dangerous and potentially life threatening situation.”

Key Bridge at similar conditions to the time of the rescue. USCG Auxiliary Photo by Tyrone Keys.

Francis Scott Key Bridge at similar conditions to the time of the rescue. USCG Auxiliary Photo by Tyrone Keys.

After locating the kayakers and confirming the emergency situation, the crew swung into action using their rescue training. Coxswain Johnson carefully navigated the patrol boat close to kayakers. He and Keys tossed Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) to the two in the water. In the meantime, Ted Bauer monitored the closing distance between the rescuers and freighter. With additional help from crew members, Paul Morin and Holly Johnson, the two soaked kayakers were pulled on board. The crew then provided first aid treatment for mild hypothermia. The remaining kayaker was towed quickly away from the freighter then back to land.

Fortunately, all of the kayakers escaped the life threatening situation. Remarking upon the situation, Coxswain Johnson stated, “We were in the right place at the right time and I’m sure we saved lives.” With limited light conditions, two people in the water with no communication and no life jackets on, and an incoming freighter, the Coast Guard Auxiliary patrol lived up to the Coast Guard motto of Semper Paratus/Always Ready and made a difference.

Read the Coast Guard Mid-Atlantic Blog post on this rescue here:

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