KEY WEST, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Key West's search-and-rescue (SAR) crew pulled two local kayakers in distress from the waters off Key West Aug. 14.
The SAR crew, on NAS Key West's SH-60F Seahawk helicopter, was performing search-pattern training approximately 40 miles northwest of Key West when pilot Lt. Patrick Ligget and co-pilot Lt. Gainey Maxwell spotted the faded-red hull of an overturned kayak floating in the water. Ligget widened his search and located a trail of debris, which led the crew to a second kayak about one-half mile from the first.
"We were conducting training operations in an area in which we almost never go," said Maxwell, who was participating in his first SAR mission since checking aboard NAS nearly three years ago.
Once on the scene, Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Christian Lyons, crew chief for NAS Key West's SH-60F SAR team, observed two men in the water, one paddling the kayak and other swimming alongside.
Ligget brought the helicopter to a hover 15 feet over the scene and gave the order to deploy Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Kyle Messmer, the rescue swimmer, to make contact with the kayakers. In rolling, three-foot seas, Messmer reached the men and determined the two needed help and required rescue.
Messmer assisted in hoisting the two men aboard the helicopter, and the crew transported the kayakers to Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West.
It was determined later that the two men had started paddling Monday from Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas National Park - located 70 miles west of Key West - and had gotten into trouble some time during the night. When they were rescued the two men had one bottle of water, a cell phone, some food rations and a global positioning satellite receiver, which had dead batteries.
"Needless to say," Maxwell reflected, "those men were extremely lucky."
For more news from Naval Air Station Key West, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/naskw/.