USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) (TR) sprang into action to assist a fishing vessel engulfed in flames off the east coast of Florida, Sept. 29.
TR watchstanders spotted a rescue flare around 4:30 a.m. approximately 90 miles off the coast and coordinated rescue efforts with nearby Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) vessel 38 to assist two fishermen who had climbed into a life raft.
“Earlier that morning we actually contacted them and asked them to change their course and speed because they were in our operating area,” said Quartermaster 2nd Class Katie Sluder, who was on watch during the evolution. “About an hour later, we spotted the flare.”
“By the time flames went through my air ports and through my roof, [NAWC 38] knew we were in trouble,” said Douglas Meagley, one of the fishermen from the burning fishing vessel, Captain Star. “Then we got in the life raft and shot off a flare.”
“[The fishing boat] was a fiberglass boat,” said Meagley. “Once it caught on fire, it was over. Once the boat caught on fire, we climbed into the life raft. We were probably in the raft for only 20 minutes before they [NAWC 38] got to us.”
NAWC 38 crew members pulled the fishermen from the water and transferred them to TR’s ready response team who took them to the carrier via rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) for a medical evaluation.
“We manned the ready life boat at approximately 0545 (5:45 a.m.) because of a boat in distress,” said Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Henry L. Cole, the coxswain aboard the RHIB that responded to the incident.
An HH-60H Seahawk helicopter from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 11, attached to Carrier Air Wing 1, flew the fishermen from TR to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, following their evaluation.
Press Release, October 01, 2014; Image: US Navy