A U.S. Coast Guard crew on joint fisheries patrol with Micronesia authorities evacuated a seriously injured Vietnamese fisherman from a tuna purse seiner 195 miles offshore Nov. 20.
The crew of the Frederick Hatch, one of three 154-foot Sentinel class fast response cutters based at Guam, were conducting a bilateral fisheries boarding with a Federated States of Micronesia marine police officer when they learned of the fisherman’s injury.
He was a crewman on the Ocean Galaxy, a 227-foot purse seiner flagged out of Nauru, according to a narrative released by the Coast Guard. The fisherman reportedly fell 12 feet earlier the same day, sustaining a head and possible spinal injury. He was conscious and talking but lost feeling and motion in his right arm and both legs, exhibiting severe concussion symptoms.
The cutter crew consulted a duty flight surgeon remotely through the U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Joint Rescue Sub-Center, who recommended medical evacuation to Pohnpei, the largest of the federated island states, about 200 miles to the north. The cutter’s boarding team, with the addition of a Coast Guard hospital corpsman and linguist, stabilized the fisherman with a cervical collar and secured him onto a miller board.
He was transferred to the cutter’s small boat and then onto the Frederick Hatch, where the crew converted one of the dining tables in the galley into a sick bay, where they continued to monitor the patient and administer oxygen during an eight-hour transit to Pohnpei.
They arrived around midnight to transfer the injured fisherman to awaiting emergency medical services, who took him to the local hospital after the Coast Guard corpsman and linguist passed on medical details and ensured hospital staff could communicate with him.
“It was an absolute team effort by every member of Frederick Hatch to medevac the injured crewmember from the Ocean Galaxy successfully. Witnessing each crewmember perform at the highest level after completing two boardings earlier the same day to help a fellow mariner was awesome to watch," said Lt. Patrick Dreiss, the Frederick Hatch commanding officer, in a statement.
The Frederick Hatch is on an expeditionary patrol in Oceania in support of Operation Rematau and Operation Blue Pacific “to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania,” according to the Coast Guard. The forward-based Guam cutters are part of the larger U.S. strategic effort to project it presence and maintain close working relationships with Pacific island nations.
The Frederick Hatch crew initially boarded the Ocean Galaxy with an Federated States of Micronesia shiprider to investigate whether the vessel was potentially “fishing in the FSM exclusive economic zone without a license,” according to the Coast Guard. “The master produced an FSM-Nauru bilateral fisheries license, meeting the requirement, and noted their primary target species was tuna.”
“Incredible work by our team on this evolution, overcoming challenges in difficult environments with creativity and skill to aid a fellow mariner,” Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, said in statement.
“While our focus is on regional security through the protection of food security and sovereignty, search and rescue is no less important, and ensuring the safety of life at sea is who we are as a service, and a big part of how we contribute to the Pacific community."