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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2022

U.S. Coast Guard Conducts Medical Evacuation of Fisherman in Federated States of Micronesia

By Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) -- The crew of the USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) medically evacuated a 31-year-old Vietnamese fisherman to a higher level of medical care in Pohnpei on Nov. 20.

The Frederick Hatch boarding team learned of the fisherman's injuries while conducting a bilateral fisheries boarding with an FSM Marine Police Officer aboard the fishing vessel Ocean Galaxy 195 nautical miles (224 statute miles) south of Pohnpei. The ship is a 69.4-meter (227-foot) purse seiner flagged out of Nauru.

"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, commanding officer of Frederick Hatch.

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 Frederick Hatch crew consulted the duty flight surgeon remotely through the U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Joint Rescue Sub-Center, who recommended the medical evacuation. The boarding team, augmented by an embarked U.S. Coast Guard hospital corpsman and linguist, stabilized the fisherman with a cervical collar and secured him onto a miller board. He was safely transferred to the small boat and then onto the Frederick Hatch. The crew converted one of the dining tables in the galley into a sick bay to continue monitoring the patient and administering oxygen.

"HS2 Jefferson's actions immediately diagnosing the situation and providing the highest level of care possible in a difficult environment is the pinnacle of what can go right when medical professionals are aboard Fast Response Cutters in this region. Many of us joined the Coast Guard to help others at sea and do exactly what we did in this case," said Dreiss."

The Frederick Hatch completed the transit to Pohnpei in about eight hours to arrive around midnight and transferred the injured fisherman to awaiting emergency medical services, who took him to the local hospital. The hospital corpsman and linguist accompanied the fisherman to pass on relevant medical details and ensure hospital staff could communicate with him.

"Every crewmember volunteered to assist in any way. I specifically want to call out the boarding team's creativity in overcoming the challenging distance from the purse seiner's deck to the small boat, where BMC Peternel's skill as a coxswain was vital to maintaining a stable platform in pitching seas during the difficult lowering of the fisherman on a backboard. Our translator, Lt. Wong, stayed by the fisherman's side for 10 hours to translate and comfort him through the whole evolution, and EM3 Edwards, a junior petty officer, stepped up to oversee and direct the multitude of deck operations throughout the day. This crew rose to the occasion and truly was at their best in someone's worst hour. I could not be more proud of them," said Dreiss.

The Frederick Hatch crew initially boarded the vessel with an FSM shiprider for potentially fishing in FSM exclusive economic zone without a license. The master produced an FSM-Nauru bilateral fisheries license, meeting the requirement, and noted their primary target species was tuna.

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. In Micronesia, Rematau means people of the deep sea. It highlights the connection between mariners and honors the shared understanding in the Pacific that securing the future requires long-term vision and a carefully considered regional strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

"Incredible work by our team on this evolution, overcoming challenges in difficult environments with creativity and skill to aid a fellow mariner," said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. "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."

The Frederick Hatch is the 43rd 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter named for a surfman and lighthouse keeper who was a two-time Gold Life Saving Medal recipient. The Service commissioned the ship along with its sister ships, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) and Oliver Henry (WPC 1140), in Guam in July 2021. These cutters are a vital part of the U.S. Coast Guard's enduring regional presence serving the people of the Pacific by conducting 10 of the Service's 11 statutory missions with a focus on search and rescue, defense readiness, living marine resources protection, and ensuring commerce through marine safety and ports, waterways, and coastal security.

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