NEWS ARTICLE ARCHIVE
FLOTILLA 33 ASSISTS COAST GUARD STATION MILFORD HAVEN WITH SEARCH & RESCUE AT RAPPAHANNOCK "10" ON THE NIGHT OF 05JUL10
COMMAND CENTER PHOTOS COURTESY OF GEORGE LONGEST, UPPER MIDDLESEX VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PUBLISHED NEWS ARTICLES AFTER PHOTOS
MIDDLESEX EMS UNITS WAIT AT THE COMMAND CENTER AT WATERVIEW ON PARROTS CREEK FOR CG 25837 & AUX 27137 TO ARRIVE WITH 9 INJURED VICTIMS OF A BOATING ACCIDENT AT RAPPAHANNOCK "10" ON 05JUL10.
MIDDLESEX EMS PERSONNEL PREPARE FOR VICTIMS AT THE WATERVIEW COMMAND CENTER.
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM.
CG 25837 ARRIVES AT WATERVIEW WITH THE 1ST 4 VICTIMS.
AUX 27137 ARRIVES AT WATERVIEW WITH 4 VICTIMS & 5 EMS PERSONNEL.
CAPT MARK OGLE, COMMANDER SECTOR HAMPTON ROADS (KNEELING), TALKS WITH AUX AMY & JIM THOMAS ABOARD AUX 27137 WHILE EMS PERSONNEL WORK ON UNLOADING AND TRANSPORTING VICTIMS TO AMBULANCES AND LIFE FLIGHT HELOS.
EMS PERSONNEL AT WORK ON THE WATERVIEW PIER.
EMS PERSONNEL PREPARE TO TRANSPORT THE LAST OF 4 VICTIMS ABOARD AUX 27137.
AUX AMY THOMAS (L) SPEAKS WITH AN UNIDENTIFIED MEMBER OF THE MIDDLESEX RESCUE TEAM AFTER THE LAST VICTIM IS TRANSPORTED.
VIRGINIA MARINE POLICE BRING THE BOAT TO WATERVIEW.
COAST GUARD HELO FROM ELIZABETH CITY NC RETURNS AFTER REFUELING. DURING THE 1ST TRIP AN 11-YEAR OLD VICTIM WAS HOISTED OFF OF CG 41503 FOR TRANSFER TO LIFE FLIGHT HELO.
AUX AMY THOMAS ABOARD AUX 27137 JUST AFTER THE LONG AWAITED SUN RISE. SHORTLY AFTER, WALLY DAWSON & BRIAN MCARDLE CAME ABOARD TO ASSIST.
AFTER A LONG NIGHT OF SEARCH & RESCUE THE CG CUTTER "COCHITO" ARRIVES FROM PORTSMOUTH TO RELIEVE CG 41503 & MEC RICHARD GONZALEZ, COXSWAIN & ON-SCENE COMMANDER.
THE "ALL NIGHT" RESPONSE TEAM AT RAPPAHANNOCK "10" (FRONT L TO R): AUX JIM THOMAS & AMY THOMAS. (BACK L TO R): SN BRITTAINY LUKE, MEC RICHARD GONZALEZ, & MK2 MILTON MARKS.
AUX 22906 WITH FLOTILLA 33 MEMBERS FRANS KASTEEL & IAN DUNCAN ABOARD ARRIVE ON SCENE TO RELIEVE AUX 27137.
ALSO EN ROUTE WAS AUX 25598 WITH ROY SHEPPARD, ANDY ERNST & DON GALLAGHER ABOARD.
AUX 25888 WAS PLACED ON STANDBY WITH JOHN MILL, DAVID HERNDON, & DAVID POPE.
ANT TEAM MILFORD HAVEN, BMC BROWN, OFFICER IN CHARGE (R) INSPECT RAPPAHANNOCK "10".
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COAST GUARD AUXILIARY FLOTILLA 33 MEMBERS FIRST ON SCENE OF TRAGIC ACCIDENT
The sun was finally coming up in the East. In the faint light, one could see the outline of rescue facilities that generated all the flashing lights and noise throughout the night. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), Virginia Marine Resources, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, Middlesex Emergency Rescue units, and 4 helicopters worked throughout the night to locate, stabilize and transport injured boaters to shore and hospitals. It was the scene of one of the worst boating accidents to ever occur on the Rappahannock River.
At 10:06 pm, Jim & Amy Thomas of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 33 received a call requesting assistance from Coast Guard Station Milford Haven. No time to gather other crew members, Jim & Amy responded immediately and got underway on AUX 27137 from the Corrotoman River in just a couple of minutes. They were the first to arrive on scene at 11:18 pm.
Coast Guard Rescue Unit 25837 from Station Milford Haven with BMCS Matthew Welsh, FN Erin Key and SN Kevin Zuercher and Coast Guard Rescue Unit 41503 with MEC Richard Gonzalez, MK2 Milton Marks, BM3 Sean Tully and SN Brittainy Luke aboard arrived shortly after the Auxiliary Rescue Unit.
MEC Gonzalez served as On Scene Commander throughout the night, coordinating the on the water search and rescue efforts. As CG 41503 arrived MEC Gonzalez directed AUX 27137 to pick up EMS personnel at Water View on Parrots Creek and transport them to the scene of the accident in the river. Shortly thereafter CG 41503 coordinated a medivac with a Coast Guard helicopter from Elizabeth City, North Carolina. A Coast Guard rescue swimmer was deployed from the helo to assist CG 41503 with the basket hoist. During this operation EMS personnel continued to stabilize the injured.
CG 25837 with BMCS Welsh started transferring the injured to emergency vehicles & helicopters waiting at Water View. A landing area was even created close to a fire department building nearby. Jim and Amy Thomas aboard AUX 27137 started a vector search of the area looking for a missing person. After all the injured were stabilized, AUX 27137 transported the final four injured (one on a stokes litter and two on backboards), arriving at Water View about 1:12 am. A total of ten people were on the 22’ Chaparral when it collided with a channel marker on the Rappahannock River. Five were transported by helicopter to VCU Medical Center, 4 others to local hospitals in Gloucester and Tappahannock.
Auxiliary Facility 27137 then returned to the accident scene and was directed by MEC Gonzalez to continue searching for the unaccounted person. Sector Hampton Roads used computer programs to calculate the set & drift (direction & speed) of the river and established the area for the search. MEC Gonzalez using this data requested creeping line searches on both the North & South shores. AUX 27137 conducted the North shore search, while the Virginia Marine Police covered the South shore. “We practice the different search patterns all the time, both individually and with Coast Guard Station Milford Haven” commented Jim Thomas, Auxiliary coxswain. “We are trained and prepared to conduct any type of search that the Coast Guard requests. Our twice a week 2-boat training with Coast Guard coxswains, crews, and boats, really helps prepare us to assist the Coast Guard in times of need.”
It was a long and hot night and the search and rescue operation was still going on when dawn broke. At 7:00 am MEC Gonzalez and CG 41503 were relieved by the Coast Guard Cutter “Cochito”, CG 87329, from Sector Hampton Roads in Portsmouth. Calls also went out to additional members of Flotilla 33. At 7:25 am Wally Dawson and Brian McArdle were picked up at a nearby pier by Jim and Amy Thomas to provide fresh eyes and ears aboard AUX 27137 along with much needed food and water. Station Milford Haven also called out additional Auxiliary assets to relieve AUX 27137. At 8:11 am AUX 22906 arrived with Frans Kasteel and Ian Duncan aboard. AUX 25598 with Roy Sheppard, Andy Ernst, & Don Gallagher was en route from Fleet’s Bay. AUX 25888 with John Mill, Dave Herndon, and David Pope was placed on standby in case needed.
John Bull, Director of Public Relations for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) described the accident “as one of the worst boating accidents in the history of VMRC. No one I’ve talked to remembers one any worse”. "People were thrown every which way," Bull said. "The emergency response was heroic, and I don't use that word casually."
CAPT Mark Ogle, Commanding Officer and Captain of the Port Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, who spent the entire night at the command center at Water View, added “Our volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary members in that area were the first on scene. They came in and did a great job in one of the worst boating accidents I’ve ever seen”.
"It was definitely the worst boating accident I've seen in my 17 years with the U.S. Coast Guard," said Maritime Enforcement Specialist Chief Richard Gonzalez, On Scene Commander, coxswain aboard CG 41503.
Amy Thomas, Auxiliary coxswain added, “I am extremely proud to be a member of Team Coast Guard and have the opportunity to assist during this type of emergency situation. Many years of training were utilized during this case getting the nine survivors to shore where they could receive appropriate medical attention for the injuries sustained.”
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of one life in the accident. I was proud of the quick and professional response by our Coast Guard auxiliary members,” said Wally Dawson, Flotilla 33 Commander. “We were fortunate to have facilities and trained personnel ready to respond quickly.”
CG STATION MILFORD HAVEN 1ST RESPONDERS RECEIVE CG ACHIEVEMENT
MEDALS FOR RESCUING 9 VICTIMS OF THE RAPPAHANNOCK "10" ACCIDENT
CG STATION MILFORD HAVEN 1ST RESPONDERS RECEIVE CG ACHIEVEMENT MEDALS FOR RESCUING 9 VICTIMS OF THE RAPPAHANNOCK "10" ACCIDENT
ON FRIDAY 16 JUL10 CAPT MARK OGLE, COMMANDER SECTOR
HAMPTON ROADS (2ND FROM LEFT), VISITS CG STATION MILFORD HAVEN TO
PRESENT CG ACHIEVEMENT MEDALS TO THE 1ST RESPONDERS OF THE
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER ACCIDENT ON 05JUL10. MK3 STEPHEN POPLIN COMES FORWARD TO RECEIVE HIS MEDAL.
ON FRIDAY 16 JUL10 CAPT MARK OGLE, COMMANDER SECTOR HAMPTON ROADS (2ND FROM LEFT), VISITS CG STATION MILFORD HAVEN TO PRESENT CG ACHIEVEMENT MEDALS TO THE 1ST RESPONDERS OF THE RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER ACCIDENT ON 05JUL10.
MK3 STEPHEN POPLIN COMES FORWARD TO RECEIVE HIS MEDAL.
SN BRITTAINY LUKE (C) RECEIVES A CG ACHIEVEMENT
MEDAL FROM CAPT MARK OGLE (L) & BMCS MATTHEW WELSH, OFFICER IN
SN BRITTAINY LUKE (C) RECEIVES A CG ACHIEVEMENT MEDAL FROM CAPT MARK OGLE (L) & BMCS MATTHEW WELSH, OFFICER IN CHARGE (R).
THE COAST GUARD MILFORD HAVEN TEAM THAT RESPONDED TO THE ACCIDENT AT RAPPAHANNOCK "10" ON 05JUL10 ON THE DECK OF CG 41503 (FRONT L to R): BM3 SEAN TULLY, MEC RICHARD GONZALEZ, & MK2 MILTON MARKS. (BACK L to R): AUX JIM THOMAS, SN KEVIN ZUERCHER, AUX AMY THOMAS, SN BRITTAINY LUKE, CAPT MARK OGLE, BMCS MATTHEW WELSH, & MK3 STEPHEN POPLIN. NOT PICTURED IS FN ERIN KEY.
(L to R) MK3 STEPHEN POPLIN, SN BRITTAINY LUKE, & MK2
MILTON MARKS, IN THE CG STATION MILFORD HAVEN COMMS CENTER. MARKS
WAS OFFICER OF THE DAY ON 05JUL, POPLIN STOOD THE RADIO WATCH DURING
SEARCH & RESCUE OPERATIONS. MARKS & LUKE WERE BOTH ABOARD CG 41503.
(L to R) MK3 STEPHEN POPLIN, SN BRITTAINY LUKE, & MK2 MILTON MARKS, IN THE CG STATION MILFORD HAVEN COMMS CENTER. MARKS WAS OFFICER OF THE DAY ON 05JUL, POPLIN STOOD THE RADIO WATCH DURING SEARCH & RESCUE OPERATIONS. MARKS & LUKE WERE BOTH ABOARD CG 41503.
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COAST GUARD STATION MILFORD HAVEN 1ST RESPONDERS RECEIVE COAST GUARD ACHIEVEMENT MEDALS
It was a dark moonless night. The quiet was shattered by two United States Coast Guard and one Coast Guard Auxiliary rescue boats rushing up the Rappahannock River. It looked surreal with blue, red, & amber lights flashing as the 1st responders navigated the Rappahannock River from Coast Guard Station Milford Haven and the Corrotoman River towards Rappahannock “10”. Marine radios were continuously passing updates among the three boats, Station Milford Haven, and Middlesex Rescue Units.
Coast Guard Auxiliary boats in coordination with Coast Guard Station Milford Haven had just completed “safety sweeps” of the Rappahannock River as dusk settled in. It was the end of a holiday weekend; it was supposed to be a quiet night. Suddenly, just before 10:00 pm, Coast Guard Station Milford Haven received a call from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office regarding a boat that hit a channel marker. While gathering more information, the Search & Rescue alarm was activated; the Coast Guard was on the way!
Senior Chief Matthew Welsh, Officer in Charge at Station Milford Haven, receiving information on the accident from MK2 Milton Marks, Officer of the Day, immediately dispatched CG 41503, the station utility boat, with MEC Richard Gonzalez, Executive Officer, MK2 Milton Marks, BM3 Sean Tully, and SN Brittainy Luke aboard.
“The night of July 5th was a calm & routine holiday at Coast Guard Station Milford Haven” said MK 2 Marks. “At 9:50 pm that all changed and changed for everyone involved. We received a call about a vessel that struck an aid to navigation. We sounded the SAR alarm and took off to the scene. On our way I thought ok, this is just a normal case, no big deal. Little did I know it would be one of the greatest tragedies I have ever witnessed.”
BM3 Tully remarked “It seemed like any other duty night on holiday routine at Coast Guard Station Milford Haven. When the SAR alarm sounded, everyone set into motion to use everything they’ve ever trained for in the Coast Guard.”
“It’s one of those moments where everything seems to slow to a crawl and you don’t know what to expect of the situation” continued SN Luke.
As more information came in, Welsh made another decision to get a Coast Guard Auxiliary unit to assist. “Until we arrived on scene, we only had sketchy, conflicting information, and we were not sure what we were dealing with,” commented Welsh. “I just knew that I had to have additional eyes and ears on the scene quickly and I knew the Auxiliary had a unit closer to the accident.” So Welsh directed the watchstander on duty to call Coast Guard Auxiliarists Jim & Amy Thomas to ask them to launch their Auxiliary Facility AUX 27137 from the Corrotoman River.
Then as the true nature of the accident came into focus, Welsh made another decision to launch a second Coast Guard boat, so Welsh, FN Erin Key, & SN Kevin Zuercher also got underway aboard CG 25837 from Station Milford Haven.
FN Key was already off duty, recently transferred, and spending her last night at Station Milford Haven before reporting to her next duty station. Little did she know that this last night would be spent on the Rappahannock River saving lives.
SN Zuercher stated “When the station first received the call, the accident didn't seem that bad. Then as more details started coming in little by little, it became obvious that this was no minor accident. I started the evening on watch duty taking the initial calls, but Chief Welsh needed crew to launch CG 25837.”
MK3 Stephen Poplin relieved SN Zuercher on watch duty and would remain at his post till after 7:00 am. Initially Poplin stayed on the telephone gathering as much information as possible from the disoriented injured mariner. Then he maintained the radio guard getting operations and position reports every 30 minutes all night for the three Coast Guard and Auxiliary rescue units. From listening to the radio communications from Station Milford Haven, MK3 Poplin remarked “The mission could not have gone smoother. This was an all-hands case involving the Coast Guard, Auxiliary, along with a number of other agencies, and the communications between them all was super”.
Chief Gonzalez, Executive Officer of Station Milford Haven, aboard CG 41503 began communicating with Middlesex Rescue units and AUX 27137, as the first of the two Coast Guard boats to arrive on scene he became the On Scene Commander.
While making way up the river, he directed the AUX 27137 to proceed immediately to Water View on Parrots Creek to pick up EMS personnel and equipment. “His experience and knowledge really paid off,” said Jim Thomas, coxswain of the Auxiliary rescue boat. “Making that decision before arriving at the scene saved a very important 15-20 minutes, at a time when every minute counted. Getting medical personnel on scene quickly to start treating seriously injured victims saved lives.”
Once Gonzalez arrived at scene, he reported the severity of the accident to the Command Center at Sector Hampton Roads, and a rescue helicopter from Elizabeth City North Carolina was launched to assist in rescue operations. After assessing the situation Gonzalez decided to conduct a helo basket hoist off the deck of CG 41503 for one unresponsive child. During this time EMS personnel assessed the other injured victims, 4 of which also needed life flights to MCV, a level 1 trauma center in Richmond, Virginia. AUX 27137 started conducting sector searches looking for the missing person that was ejected from the boat. The three Coast Guard & Auxiliary boats worked tirelessly through the night transporting EMS personnel and equipment, evacuating the victims to Water View for life flight or ambulance rides, and continued conducting search and rescue operations for the missing person.
"It was definitely the worst boating accident I've seen in my 17 years with the U.S. Coast Guard," said Gonzalez.
“What we encountered will be in our heads for the rest of our lives” said MK2 Marks. “The boat ran into a steel piling, ejecting people all around the boat and some off the boat. It was the worst incident I have dealt with in my 9 years in the Coast Guard. I was highly impressed with the aid we rendered to the 9 victims. The whole crew did an outstanding job and more than likely saved the lives of some of the people onboard that vessel.”
BM3 Tully remarked “I can honestly say that in my life, I have never been more prepared and yet under prepared, at the same time. It was the most shocking and eye popping experience I’ve ever had. The thing that will always remain with me from this case is the lasting effects on the children. It was a sad, tragic state of affairs.”
“Upon arrival the scene was not what we expected, all I could think about is that we have to save these people” added SN Luke.
SN Zuercher said “On the way I started preparing myself mentally for what I might see, even with doing so, it wasn't enough. I saw and experienced some things that many people never get to see or experience. I wish I could forget some of the things that I saw, but unfortunately I never will."
That night the Coast Guard Station Milford Haven “Team” of Active and Auxiliary members worked side by side to evacuate the 9 surviving victims of this horrible accident so they could get the medical attention that saved lives. Amy Thomas, Auxiliary coxswain added, “I am extremely proud to be a member of Team Coast Guard and have the opportunity to assist during this type of emergency situation. Everyone involved in the Coast Guard effort rose to meet the needs of the victims, gave their very best effort, and successfully completed the mission. I’ll never forget them, their skill and compassion saved lives.”
For their outstanding efforts, CAPT Mark Ogle, Captain of the Port & Commander Sector Hampton Roads visited Station Milford Haven on Friday July 16th to present MK2 Milton Marks, BM3 Sean Tully, MK3 Stephen Poplin, FN Erin Key, SN Brittainy Luke, and SN Kevin Zuercher, with the Coast Guard Achievement Medal.
The Achievement Medal is awarded to enlisted personnel for outstanding leadership, professional achievement, and superior performance of duty in either peacetime or combat situations. The awards begin “cited for superior performance of duty while serving as Boat Crewmember and First Responder” and concludes with “diligence, perseverance, and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard. The Operational Distinguishing Device is authorized”.
CAPT Ogle, who spent the entire night at the command center at Water View, remarked “The Team of Active & Auxiliary personnel at Station Milford Haven did a great job in one of the worst boating accidents I’ve ever seen”. Awards for BMCS Welsh, MEC Gonzalez, along with Auxiliarists Jim & Amy Thomas will be presented at a later date.
BMCS Welsh added “I could not be more proud of my Team at Station Milford Haven. We spend hours & hours training so that when the SAR alarm sounds, our Active & Auxiliary team members are prepared for whatever mission skill-sets are needed. That night all the training we do to enhance these skills were utilized, lives were saved.”
Team Coast Guard at Station Milford Haven remains “Semper Paratus”, always ready.
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