ST. MARY PARISH, La. (KLFY) — A U.S. Coast Guard pilot who helped save the two survivors in the search and rescue operation after a helicopter went down off the Louisiana coast, is sharing the details of their mission.
He says it was especially dangerous, as they were searching for the survivors in darkness.
In video released of the rescue, two survivors are seen clinging onto a life raft after their helicopter crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.
They waited for about 45 minutes until help arrived from the Coast Guard.
“In the video you can probably see though that the helicopter is upside down, and there’s a flotation holding the helicopter up. We didn’t know how secure that flotation was. So we didn’t want to get too close because our helicopter produces hurricane force winds, even at 100 feet,” Lieutenant Jordan Fonville, a pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard, recalled.
He says when they finally found the downed helicopter, they sent a swimmer down.
“Our swimmer was able to swim towards the wreckage, and then evaluate on scene hey, the survivor needs this. Hey, this survivor needs this. And once we had that information, we made it we made another plan in the helicopter. Right, this is how we’re going to do this.”
Communicating to Lt. Fonville and the flight medic through a radio, the swimmer helped one survivor into a basket and the other onto a litter, which is similar to a stretcher.
“Phenomenal job on his part along with our swimmer, who had to swim through jet fuel, hydraulic fuel or hydraulic oil, and you know God knows what else is in the water because it’s nighttime. You can’t really see.”
Lt. Fonville says the task was a difficult and dangerous one.
“The operations that we do are inherently dangerous, you know, we’re hovering, you know, only less than 100 feet over the water at night. So it’s a pretty it’s pretty dangerous thing that we do.”
He says, however, he’s been trained for a situation like this one.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be that rescue for the members that did survive.”
One person on the helicopter that crashed died. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.