Coast Guard Cutter Munro assists injured mariner in icy Bering Sea

ValdesThe crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro responded to a call for help from an injured crewman aboard the fishing vessel Nordic Fury, underway in the Bering Sea 40 miles southwest of St. Paul, Alaska, Feb. 27.

The crew transferred the patient from the fishing vessel to the Munro using their small boat and treated the man for deep lacerations to his hand, which had been partially crushed freeing a net fouled in the Nordic Fury’s propeller. Following treatment he was delivered back to the Nordic Fury for further transport to Dutch Harbor and additional medical care.

The  crew of the Kodiak-based cutter was navigating shifting ice fields and completing their second at-sea commercial fishing vessel safety boardings of the day when the received the urgent call for help at 3:10 p.m.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Miller, an operations specialist aboard Munro, was manning the communications and consulted with search and rescue controllers at the Coast Guard 17th District command center about the case.  It was decided the patient would be brought aboard Munro for a medical assessment because the 95-foot vessel could not pull in to nearby St. Paul Harbor to reach emergency medical personnel due to icing conditions.

The cutter’s 23-foot small boat was launched in choppy ice-cold seas to retrieve the patient and bring him aboard Munro.

“It wasn’t routine,” said the coxswain, Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Valdes, a boatswain’s mate aboard Munro. “We were looking at six-foot swells. The location of their ladder made things harder too. I had to come in opposite their course to maintain position against their hull. I couldn’t have done it safely without my crew.”

HSCThe maneuver was made even riskier by icy rails on the Nordic Fury and the need to assist the patient – with only one good hand – down the Jacob’s ladder and into the small boat. When the small boat crew returned to Munro, Chief Petty Officer Joshua Foss, the health services technician aboard, was ready in sick bay to receive the patient.

“They had done a good job with the first aid,” he said. “The next step was to debride [clean] and assess the wound.”

Foss skillfully observed that the patient’s injury had not affected tendons or ligaments in the hand, and that suturing it would be appropriate. Normally, Coast Guard health service technicians are not called upon to complete clinical tasks for civilian patients, but the Coast Guard 17th District duty flight surgeon made an exception in this case.  With further medical care days away in Dutch Harbor, having Foss conduct the treatment was the best option. He applied local anesthesia, approximated the wound and, as excessive swelling indicated the bone may have been fractured, applied a splint. The patient was advised to get x-rays once he was ashore.

Once again Coast Guard cutter crews show the value they provide by ensuring the safety of mariners in Alaska while protecting living marine resources.

“I’d rather drive up here than in the Florida Straits,” said conning officer Lt. j.g. Evan Richter. “Ice or no ice, we need to be near the fleet.”