PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION, MD – Amid the celebrations of the July Fourth weekend, a crew from Naval Air Station Patuxent River’s Search and Rescue (SAR) “SAR Dogs” squadron was called into action July 1 for a boater in distress on the Choptank River.  

A father and daughter were fishing on the river when their boat became disabled, drifting into a rocky break protecting a waterway. But rescue efforts were initially hampered by the depth of the Choptank. 

Credit: NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs Officer

“A Sea Tow vessel was unable to recover them due to shallow water. The Coast Guard was called and they were met with the same issues,” said Lt. Wendy Zehner, Pax River Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) Officer and co-pilot on the rescue flight. “The Coast Guard then called the Pax SAR Squadron Duty Officer Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Chelcey Justiniano and relayed the request.” 

Lt. Andrew Brumbeloe, Pax SAR Operations Officer and pilot during the rescue flight, positioned the aircraft over the breakwater as Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Michael McCarthy readied Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Eladio Perez to be lowered onto the boat.  

“We did one pass and setup for a hover into the wind,” said Zehner. “The crew determined that the rescue basket would be the best device for the small child so we lowered Perez to prepare them for hoisting.” 

Once lowered to the break, Perez placed the nine-year-old in the rescue basket first, raising her into the SAR helicopter, followed by her father. Both were transported to Easton Airfield with no injuries. 

Brumbeloe said that while the majority of calls Pax SAR receives to assist civilians are for mariners that have been lost at sea, warmer weather and holidays typically account for an increase in emergency calls; this was the fifth call to NAS Pax River’s SAR to assist the Coast Guard this year, and the second that required a hoist from a civilian vessel. He added that working with mission partners from the U.S. Coast Guard ensure that if one method of recovery doesn’t work, an alternative can usually be found. 

“The Coast Guard Sector Maryland responded with their rescue vessel in an attempt to reach the stranded survivors before they requested an air recovery,” said Brumbeloe. “And no medical attention was required, thankfully.” 

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