Coast Guard team up for award

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Coast Guard helicopter crew that pulled three fishermen out of the Gulf of Alaska during a November storm are up for the Distinguished Flying Cross, the nation's highest peacetime flying honor.

The four-person crew was also recently named the military's national Search and Rescue Crew of the Year.

The official Coast Guard report written by copilot James O'Keefe recounts how the Nov. 13 storm developed more fiercely than initially expected as the crew searched for the 54-foot longliner Becca Dawn.

''Severe turbulence due to a combination of strong winds and high seas caused the aircraft to be flung backwards and downwards uncontrollably,'' O'Keefe wrote. The crew also included Lt. Cmdr. Robert Yerex, the helicopter's pilot, rescue swimmer Noel Hutton, and engineer Christian Blanco.

They rescued Jesse McGraw, Song Nash and Lee Nash. A search for a fourth crewman, Olen Nash, was unsuccessful.

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