Coast Guard crew set to be honored for Alaskan rescue

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The Association for Rescue at Sea will honor a member of the Coast Guard and a captain and crew for outstanding rescues in 2012.

Association Vice Adm. Thomas R. Sargent will present the Gold Medal, which is awarded annually to an enlisted member of the Coast Guard for an act of extraordinary bravery during a rescue, to Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Robert Emley for a lifesaving rescue while serving as a rescue swimmer aboard a Coast Guard helicopter.

The helicopter was responding to a distress call from a 55-foot fishing boat in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Seas above 30 feet and winds in excess of 30 knots had broken the vessel’s rudder, leaving only bow thrusters to keep the boat upright.

The helicopter navigated below 300-foot ceilings in the turbulent weather, which included less than a mile of visibility. Emley helped pilots locate and communicate with the vessel, which had lost generator power.

The Coast Guard crew prepared to lower Emley to the vessel and hoist all five who were aboard the boat, but a wildly swinging deck rigging thwarted that plan. After assessing the situation, the crew told the people on the boat to don survival suits and enter the water for a one-at-a-time recovery.

Emley encountered a pod of orca whales that had been trailing the vessel as he hoisted each member of the crew from the water. While proceeding to the nearest hospital, Emley stabilized a severely injured survivor who was having trouble breathing because of a punctured lung.

Separately, the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System, or Amver award, will go to the captain and crew of M/V Horizon Reliance, a U.S.-flagged container ship managed by Horizon Lines LLC, for taking part in two separate rescues that saved the lives of three Canadians and an 81-year old American sailor.

The Association for Rescue at Sea will hold the awards ceremony and reception on Oct. 16 on Capitol Hill. It will be co-hosted by U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, (R-N.C.), co-chairman of the Congressional Coast Guard Caucus.

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