Scandies Rose hearing day 7: Coast Guard rescue

The Scandies Rose hearing today focused on the Coast Guard’s response to the emergency. It featured testimony from John Hollingsworth, who had retired from the Coast Guard, Lieutenant Chris Clark who was one of the pilots on the mission to the Scandies Rose, Captain Jonathan Musman, commanding officer on the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon, Captain Clint Schlegel, and Commander Sam Nassar.

Lieutenant Clark’s testimony stood out in particular; he gave details that attested to the severity of the weather. Clark has been a pilot for several years and described the mission to aid the Scandies Rose as “the hardest flight of my career.”

He provided several other details, saying that the fuel constraints meant that the search area would have been impossible to fully sweep. The conditions were so cold, that when the rescue swimmer searched the first raft, he had to be de-iced by the helicopter crew. Ice had formed on his suit and facemask.

The pilot saw the flashlight signal from the second raft in their night-vision goggles. When they arrived at the raft, Clark had to manually operate the winch from the helicopter with his flight joystick, as the crewmember on the door had lost dexterity in their hands from the extreme cold. When they finally did rescue Jon Lawler and Dean Gribble, they were so low on fuel they couldn’t operate the onboard heater on the helicopter during the return trip to Air Station Kodiak.

Testimony will resume tomorrow with Mario Vittone, a survival equipment industry expert, Captain Kirsten Martin of the Coast Guard National Maritime Center, Jaideep Sirkar, Coast Guard Naval Architecture Division Chief, and Captain John Crawford of the Crawford Nautical School.

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