I am excited to be able to recognize several members of our Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) team for their part in rescuing two lives.
Early on September 14, the Connecticut-based crew of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center’s (PIADC) ferry boat, the MS Shahan II, left from Old Saybrook, Connecticut with 63 PIADC staff members to start their usual, routine weekday commute to Plum Island. That morning, however, it was anything but business as usual.
The seas were rough with 25-knot winds out of the west whipping up five-foot waves. Upon entering the open waters of the Long Island Sound, ship captain Peter Jordan observed a recreational vessel struggling in the rough seas a mile and a half off shore. Almost simultaneously, a mayday call came over the emergency radio, announcing that a vessel named “Whiskey” was in distress with two people on board. The boaters reported their vessel was quickly taking on water, and they could not reach their life jackets.
The crew of the Shahan responded immediately and notified the U.S. Coast Guard and PIADC security. They could see the Whiskey was sinking, and upon approaching the stricken vessel, the crew saw both people on board abandon ship. They entered the 70-degree turbulent water of Long Island Sound where a strong current was actually flowing in the opposite direction of the wind.
Capt. Jordan knew there were only a few minutes left to pull the two out of the Sound and into the safety of the ferry boat’s cabin. When conditions prevented the pair from reaching the Shahan, Capt. Jordan maneuvered his 120-foot vessel to attempt a port-side recovery using the rescue ladder, but had to abort due to rough seas.
Crew members Cliff McGugan and Al Yeomans used a rescue sling to reach the female victim, and quickly hoist her from the water. The male survivor, who had been clinging to a round fender used to protect a boat from bumping into a dock, was quickly pulled on board by McGugan and Yeomans. PIADC staff on board, including Allyson Cooke and Hector Lavarada, had been trained to recognize and respond to victims of shock and hypothermia and quickly responded with thermal blankets.
The Coast Guard was notified of the successful rescue and the Shahan returned to Old Saybrook where emergency medical responders were waiting at the marina to take charge of the survivors.
“It was gratifying to be able to use our experience, training and equipment to help someone in distress,” said Capt. Jordan.
I am joined by Dr. Larry Barrett, the PIADC Director, in recognizing these quick-thinking and resourceful members of the PIADC team. We are extremely proud of their outstanding response that helped save two lives. Congratulations to our Plum Island colleagues on a job well done!
Backrow: Capt. Peter Jordan, Crew Member Al Yeomans, Jennifer Knight, Jeffrey Krause, Hector Lavarada Seated Crew Member Cliff McGugan and Allyson Cooke