A Coast Guardsman swam from shore to rescue a fisherman from the surf near South Beach State Park early Tuesday morning after his vessel ran aground and began taking on water.
The fisherman was forced to abandon ship after the vessel began breaking apart in 10-foot surf. At approximately 11:40 p.m., Coast Guard Sector North Bend watchstanders received the initial mayday call from a fisherman over VHF-FM radio. The lone mariner aboard a 44-foot commercial fishing vessel requested assistance reporting he was on the south jetty at Newport. Coast Guard crews deployed to respond after Sector North Bend issued an urgent marine information broadcast.
Crews aboard a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat, the 52-foot Motor Lifeboat Victory, and a ground party were dispatched from Station Yaquina Bay. An Air Facility Newport aircrew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter also responded but returned to base due to restricted visibility and hazardous weather conditions. The weather on scene was reported to be 34.5-mph winds, 10-foot breaking surf, near zero visibility and 56-degree Fahrenheit water temperature.
Station Yaquina Bay crew members communicated with the distressed mariner via radio and instructed him to use flares to signal his location. The flares were sighted approximately 1.15 miles south of the Yaquina Bay jetties. The crew aboard the 47-foot Motor Lifeboat arrived on scene at approximately 1:20 a.m, but was unable to approach due to shoaling. At this time, the ground party arrived on scene after running more than 1.5 miles from the South Beach State Park access area, carrying 500 feet of rescue line and other equipment.
At approximately 1:35 a.m., the mariner entered the water and Petty Officer 1st Class Wallace Qual made a first attempt to swim to his position. As the mariner was quickly being swept south by surf and currents, Qual returned to shore. With a second attempt, Qual successfully reached the mariner. The crew ashore pulled the two from the surf using the rescue line. The mariner was transported to awaiting emergency medical personnel. No injuries were reported. "The overall teamwork that went into locating the mariner, and the communication between our crews, was huge", said Qual. "When I got to him, he was wearing his survival suit and had an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) and strobe light in hand. That preparedness probably saved his life." The Coast Guard urges all mariners to be equipped with the proper equipment and have a reliable means of communication in case of emergency.