Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2012 by LT Stephanie Young
The Aviation Training Center Mobile aircrew who rescued the family of nine and their two dogs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Lewis Johnson III.
With contributions from Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann, 8th Coast Guard District.
The Burnsed family was enjoying a relaxing summer vacation on Dog Island, south of Carrabelle, Fla. But slow-moving Topical Storm Debby had other plans for them. Debby, stalling multiple times in the Gulf of Mexico, dumped up to 5 inches of rain per hour on parts of the Florida Panhandle this past weekend.
The heavy rains caused the family to be stranded in their vacation home, which was located on a narrow sandbar at the southwest portion of Dog Island. With water surrounding them in every direction, and waves crashing against the home’s structure, the family knew they had to evacuate. But they were running out of options.
Click here to see dramatic video of the rescue. U.S. Coast Guard video.
A boat had originally brought the family to the island but could not come back for them due to the weather conditions from the storm. There was no way for them to evacuate to higher ground – until the Coast Guard was called in.
Watchstanders at Sector Mobile received a phone call from the family shortly after noon and launched the 6039 aircrew fromAviation Training Center Mobile.
“Due to the severe weather from Tropical Strom Debby, it took a great deal of ingenuity and teamwork across the Coast Guard to deploy an available aircraft and crew safely and effectively,” said Lt. Sara Vinh from the 8th Coast Guard Districtcommand center. “Launching in severe weather is dangerous, but when lives are at stake, it’s our duty to respond.”
The 6039 aircrew knew they were headed out on an unusual mission; they’re used to saving boaters miles offshore or plucking them from a sinking boat along the coast. This time, the aircrew found themselves hovering over someone’s home.
While they weren’t saving someone far out at sea, one thing remained the same – lives needed to be saved.
“I felt excited and ready to go when we got the call. Once I go out the door and down on deck, my training takes over. You don’t want to screw anything up, you just want everyone to be safe,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Sinclair, the aircrew’s rescue swimmer.
The 6039 arrived and hoisted each of the nine family members – five adults and four children, along with their two dogs – to safety. One of the survivors, Caroline Burnsed, recalled being nervous and then scared as she was hoisted into the rescue basket, water crashing below her.
But in the end, her fear dissipated and turned to gratitude.