Air Guard saves man on sportfishing vessel

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman,
  • 129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - A fisherman who experienced multiple seizures and lost consciousness at sea is safely on land after being airlifted by the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing.

The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center activated the wing Jan. 31 due to a medical emergency aboard the Independence, a long-range sportfishing vessel based in San Diego, 300 nautical miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas. According to owner Paul Strasser, the 112-foot Independence left San Diego Jan. 27 for a 16-day fishing trip.

The wing, working with the U.S. Coast Guard District 11, launched one of its U.S. Air Force HC-130J Combat King II aircraft from Moffett Air National Guard Base in Mountain View 1,200 nautical miles to the ship the night of Jan. 31. It delivered 300 pounds of medical supplies including tanks of oxygen, IV equipment and gauze for a doctor aboard the vessel. The doctor stabilized the fisherman and the vessel headed to Socorro Island, 370 miles off the western coast of Mexico.

A second HC-130J took off from Moffett before sunrise Feb. 1 and flew to the island with a team of highly trained pararescuemen.

At 9 a.m. Feb. 1, the fisherman was flown 285 miles north to Los Cabos International Airport in Cabo San Lucas while the pararescuemen provided medical care. Shortly before noon, the aircraft arrived at the airport and the Mexican Navy drove the fisherman by ambulance to a hospital for treatment.

“I’m really proud to be part of the Moffett team,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tavis McDevitt, the mission’s search and rescue duty officer. “It’s amazing to watch ordinary citizens with jobs and school and families and commitments dedicate a weekend every month to military training and drop what they are doing when people need help.”

He said the wing’s Airmen stepped up quickly.

“Within an hour of being notified, we had part-time Guardsmen giving medical advice, ensuring mission participants were on proper orders and would get paid, servicing aircraft, and preparing for a complex mission,” he said. “I’m grateful to all of the people in our lives who support us and give up time we might otherwise spend with them.”

The mission marks the wing’s 1,160th save, as credited by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the 129th Rescue Wing’s federal military mission is to train and prepare to perform combat search and rescue anywhere in the world.

The wing uses those skills at home to provide disaster relief and civil support — aiding distressed people aboard ships, searching for lost or injured hikers, conducting medical evacuations during natural disasters, helping fight wildfires and providing medical support during the pandemic.