Kodiak-based Coast Guard rescue swimmer wins national award

Posted: Tuesday, September 26, 2000

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) -- A Coast Guard rescue swimmer is to be honored Wednesday for saving three people who abandoned their capsized fishing boat in near-freezing waters near here.

Aviation Survival Technician Timothy Adams, of Medical Lake, Wash., will receive the Gold Medal Award from the Association for Rescues at Sea during ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

Adams was cited for his actions in the March 12, 1999, rescue of survivors from the fishing vessel Alska which sank in Shelikof Strait, about 60 miles northwest of Kodiak.

Air Station Kodiak responded to a distress call from the Alska -- launching a helicopter and crew into a blizzard. The Jayhawk's de-icing system failed while en route, causing ice to build on the rotor blades.

The crew returned to Kodiak where they launched a different helicopter. Returning to the scene, they spotted three crewmembers from the 62-foot fishing boat floating in the water; a fourth man was believed trapped inside.

A rescue basket was lowered to the survivors but rotor wash and hypothermia kept them from getting into the basket without help.

Adams went into the water to assist the men and found that his own survival suit was damaged during the hoist -- allowing the 35-degree water to seep inside.

Adams also learned that one of the men's dry suits was leaking. He tried to help that man but was unsuccessful because he was combative and hypothermic.

''The man was frozen,'' Adams said. ''I got him to the basket but couldn't get his legs to bend.''

Knowing he could get that person into a tandem hoist later, Adams turned to the others. Both were lifted into the helicopter.

Adams then was hoisted aboard so he could change his rescue gear from a basket to a harness. He was lowered again into the frigid water to rescue the hypothermic man.

Still working from a leaking survival suit, Adams had to struggle with the man but eventually was able to get him into a tandem sling hoist.

They were lifted together into the hovering helicopter.

Meantime, a nearby fishing vessel recovered the fourth crewmember who had been resting on a floating cooler.

The helicopter crew and its three survivors returned to Air Station Kodiak, where one of the men was taken to Providence Kodiak Medical Center for treatment.

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