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Navy and Coast Guard team up to rescue cruise ship passenger

The Navy and Coast Guard in Hawaii rang in the New Year by teaming up to rescue a 69-year-old passenger from a cruise ship 210 miles northwest of Hilo.

A Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter crew from Kaneohe Bay-based Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 conducted a medevac off the Grand Princess while a Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft provided overhead communications support, according to a Coast Guard email sent to Navy Times early Thursday.

The Easyriders transferred the patient to Hilo Medical Center for treatment but his condition is unknown at this time, officials said.

“The Coast Guard and the Navy often work together during search and rescue operations in the Pacific,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Craig Howarth, a Coast Guard Sector Honolulu watchstander, in the statement.

“Each case is different and depending on the situation the long range capabilities of the Navy Sea Hawk aircrews with our Hercules aircrews in support is the quickest means of getting a patient to the higher level of medical care.”

The mission began at 12:29 p.m. Wednesday when Grand Princess reported to Sector Honolulu watchstanders that a passenger was suffering from an abdominal ailment. After consulting with a duty flight surgeon, the Coast Guard agreed with the cruise liner’s medical staff and recommended a medical evacuation.

But the distance from Oahu to the ship required a long-range helicopter.

The Coast Guard’s workhorse is the medium-range Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk, which would’ve been at the far edge of its capabilities from Barbers Point to the cruise ship. So an HSM-37 anti-submarine MH-60R crew from Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of the island agreed to tackle the mission, according to the Coast Guard.

To cut the medevac distance, the Grand Princess diverted toward the Big Island while the Navy and Coast Guard crews scrambled to make the rendezvous at sea.

With winds measured at 25 mph and seas up to 10 feet high, the Sea Hawk crew hoisted the passenger and transported him to medical care, Coast Guard officials said.

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