IMO 2023 Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea goes to USCG helicopter rescuer

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(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) ​Caleb Halle, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), based at the Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, is to receive the 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

Caleb Halle, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), based at the Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, is to receive the 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, for his outstanding courage, endurance and determination shown during the rescue of the seven-strong crew of the tugboat Legacy in January 2023.

Four individuals or sets of nominees will receive certificates of commendation for their acts of bravery. A further 13 will receive letters of commendation.

The recipients were selected by a Panel of Judges, whose recommendation was endorsed by the IMO Council, meeting for its 129th session (17-21 July).

A total of 47 nominations were received for the 2023 award from 18 Member States, one Associate Member and three non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO.

On 14 January 2023, the tugboat Legacy was en route towing a barge when its tow lines snapped in strong winds and heavy swells. The vessel and its crew of seven were adrift in violent rolling seas, 35 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland on the east coast of the United States of America.

After several unsuccessful rescue attempts by a USCG cutter, a helicopter rescue team was dispatched. Helicopter CG-6566 was to execute a rescue plan led by Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) Caleb Halle.

Once at the incident scene, the helicopter crew attempted a hoist operation from the stern of the Legacy. In hugely challenging circumstances, AST2 Halle was able to help one survivor to reach the rescue basket before determining it was unsafe to continue. He identified a safer location on the main deck and notified his crew to reposition. AST2 Halle ensured the safe recovery of two further survivors. Running low on fuel, the helicopter had to depart the scene. But AST2 Halle volunteered to remain on site to reassure the four remaining tugboat crew and to assist a relief Coast Guard helicopter when it arrived.

Helicopter CG-6024 reached the scene as darkness was falling, making conditions increasingly difficult. Communications between AST2 Halle and the helicopter were lost as it approached, and after several failed attempts to deploy its rescue swimmer, Mr Halle was able eventually to assist his colleague to reach the violently pitching main deck of the tugboat. Working together, they managed to hoist the four remaining tugboat crew to safety.

AST2 Halle conducted a final search inside the Legacy to ensure no one was left behind. A large wave hit the boat - and at this point the water-tight seal of his survival suit was damaged.

As the two rescue swimmers were, themselves, about to be hoisted off the tugboat, it suddenly pitched violently upwards, throwing them both into the freezing and turbulent water, close to the tugboat propellors. AST2 Halle's survival suit was beginning to flood. The situation was critical, but once the helicopter was able to regain position, both rescue swimmers were finally winched from the sea.

The Panel of Judges agreed that, throughout the operation, AST2 Caleb Halle clearly demonstrated exceptional bravery and determination, despite the extreme conditions and the complexities of a multi-unit rescue, coupled with communications failures.

Mr. Halle was nominated for the Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea by the United States of America.

 

 

 

 

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