129th Rescue Wing - THUMBS UP!
Man near death before airlift
Katherine Dedyna, Times Colonist Published: Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A Victoria fisherman suffering from a potentially fatal infection was airlifted more than 700 kilometres from his vessel to hospital last week in a monumental rescue effort that involved two days, five aircraft and nearly 40 U.S. air force personnel.
Gordon Farewell, 53, is now recovering from blood poisoning in hospital in San Jose, Calif. But less than a week ago, he was near death after being poked by tuna spines that broke off in his skin and festered into a blood infection.
"By the time I asked for some help, I was pretty sick," Farewell admitted from his hospital bed.
The drama began last Wednesday morning, when Harold Tretwold, engineer of the Vancouver-based Ocean Marauder, which was fishing for tuna about 700 kilometres off the northern coast of California, called the Canadian Coast Guard at Tofino to talk to a doctor about Farewell's wounds.
He was told to contact the U.S. Coast Guard, but when he did, he was told the Marauder was well beyond the range of the U.S. rescue helicopters. Instead, the coast guard contacted the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Florida. As the Marauder steamed for port, about two days away, the centre gave the mission to members of 129th Rescue Wing, many of whom had just returned from firefighting in northern California.
That evening, a C-130 Hercules flew out to the Marauder with four parachutist-paramedics on board. Rescue personnel dropped into the sea, swam to the boat and clambered up the ladder, quickly hooking Farewell up to IVs, treating him with antibiotics, stabilizing his condition and readying him for the trip to hospital the next day. The plane returned to base.
The next morning, two HH-60 helicopters and two C-130s, which can refuel the choppers in the air, left California to pick up Farewell and the paramedics. The two helicopter-plane pairs were sent in case one set went down during the rescue.
When they arrived, Farewell was hoisted aboard a chopper and flown to San Jose.
"In all of my years I have been fishing, I have never seen anything like that," Tretwold said about the rescue.
When asked about the rescue effort, Capt. Alyson Teeter, spokeswoman for the 129 Rescue Wing, said costs is irrelevant. "We've been tasked to save a life and that's what we do."
Farewell will stay in hospital until he fully recovers, said his wife, Debra, who remained in Victoria. She's grateful for the Americans' efforts.
"From what the doctor told me, if he stayed out any longer, he wouldn't be around to tell the story."
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
Excellent work on the Joint Task efforts!