Navy Helicopter Airlifts Injured Divers From Cruise Ship

Story Number: NNS040722-01Release Date: 7/22/2004 8:58:00 AM
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By Tom Clements, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

BARKING SANDS, Kaua'i (NNS) -- A UH-3H Sea King helicopter from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands, Kaua'i, in the Hawaiian islands, airlifted two injured men from the cruise ship Pride of Aloha five miles off the Kaua'i coast July 20. The cruise ship had picked up the two men after they suffered injuries while diving off the Na Pali coast.

The Navy helicopter, flown by pilots Lt. Bill Reilein and Lt. Adam Schultz, launched within 15 minutes of receiving a request for assistance from the Coast Guard at about 5 p.m. The helicopter hovered 20 feet over the cruise ship, while Aviation Electronic's Technician 3rd Class Christopher Szabo was lowered onto the ship and worked with the ship's medical crew to prepare the injured men for hoisting.

"When I got to the deck, I saw the man with the injured leg was on a stretcher," said Szabo. "The ship's crew worked with me to load him instead into our litter, so that we could hoist him up to the helo."

Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Damon Baggs operated the hoist and secured the injured men aboard the helicopter. Both Szabo and Baggs are qualified rescue swimmers.

By 5:45 p.m., the injured men were aboard the helicopter and on their way to Lihue Airport, where an ambulance transported them to Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

"Everything went smoothly," said Reilein. "The ship's crew prepared a nice clear area without obstruction that we could work from."

Baggs defined the rescue as an example of why he enjoys the job. "This is why I joined the Navy," he said.

Pilots Reilein and Schultz are the same that aided the Kauai County Fire Department July 15 by flying water drops over a fire at Lihue Refuse Transfer Station.

"We're thankful that we are able to provide assistance to a community that has been so supportive of us," said Capt. Jeff Connelly, PMRF commanding officer. "Our hearts go out to the injured and their families, and we hope for their speedy recovery."

For related news, visit the Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Navy NewsStand page at

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