Carnival Cruise Ship Crew Receives Award for Rescue at Sea

carnival rescue
Launch from Carnival Ecstasy meets up with the yacht Balista to conduct a medevac, Nov. 17, 2020 (Carnival Cruise Lines)

Published Oct 29, 2021 3:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Next week, the Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS) will honor civilians and coastguardsmen who went beyond the call of duty to save mariners in distress. This year's awardees include the crew of a Carnival cruise ship, who responded to a yacht's distress call and carried out a successful rescue. 

On November 17, 2020, the captain and crew of the cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy responded to a mayday while departing an anchorage at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. A crewmember from the motor yacht Balista was injured and needed a medevac, and the cruise ship was in the best position to respond.

Under the direction of Capt. Domenico Calise, the crew carried out a nighttime transfer of the victim in rough seas, while keeping to proper COVID-19 safety protocols. The ship's medical team provided the victim with care overnight. He required further treatment, so Carnival Ecstasy headed north to meet up with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, which evacuated him the next morning. 

Awards for this rescue and others will be given out to a select group of captains, crewmembers and individuals at the Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS) annual ceremony on Capitol Hill next Tuesday. 

In addition to the crew of the Carnival Ecstasy, AFRAS will recognize a U.S. Coast Guard servicemember, two Coast Guard Auxiliarists, and the captains and crews of two commercial ships. The other awardees include:

• Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Wallace C. Qual, who led a beach rescue team that responded to a vessel grounding at Yaquina Bay, Oregon. After the captain of the fishing vessel abandoned ship in heavy weather, Qual entered the water and fought heavy surf to save him and bring him back ashore.

• Coast Guard Auxiliarists Shelley and Gary Markle, who responded to a radio call for help while on a training mission on Lake Michigan, just off Chicago. The Markles took charge of a hectic scene in order to carry out the rescue of a missing swimmer, who was located underwater and brought back to the surface. Shelley performed CPR until fire and EMS personnel arrived on scene.

• The captains and crews of the merchant vessels Ariel and Horizon Reliance. After an aircraft ditched in the Pacific Ocean more than 1,000 miles from Oahu, Hawaii, they rescued the two survivors from a life raft in rough seas. The ships’ captains agreed to participate in the rescue after a request through the AMVER program.

Rep. Salud Carbajal - the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation - will host the ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building. Senior maritime leaders will be in attendance, including the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Adm. Karl Schultz.

Last year's AFRAS ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19, and the heroes who would have been honored for rescues in calendar year 2019 will be recognized at this year’s ceremony as well.