Two Seriously Injured in Coast Guard Helicopter Crash in Alaska

Aircrew evacuation
Four aircrew members were evacuated to Seattle by a Coast Guard C-130 for higher care (USCG image)

Published Nov 15, 2023 1:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a helicopter crash that injured four servicemembers during a rescue near Petersburg, Alaska. 

On Monday night, watchstanders at Coast Guard 17th District received a distress call from the crab boat Lydia Marie. The vessel's crew had reported flooding at 2000 hours at a position off Read Island, and they were in the process of being rescued by a Jayhawk helicopter aircrew. In an  update at 2300, they called to report that the aircraft had gone down on the island.  

Rescue crews from the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Petersburg Fire and Rescue were the first responders on scene, arriving at about 0050 hours Tuesday morning. Another Jayhawk aircrew out of Air Station Sitka arrived to assist at 0140, and together they provided medical care to the four aircrew members. 

The second helicopter flew the survivors to Petersburg for higher medical care. On arrival, they were evaluated and transferred aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft for onward transport to Seattle, where they would benefit from advanced medical resources. Seattle has the only Level I trauma center in all of Washington, Alaska and Idaho. 

Two of the evacuees are reported to be in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center. The other two survivors had only minor injuries. 

A buoy tender, USCGC Elderberry, and the fast response cutter USCGC Douglas Denman finished the rescue response for the Lydia Marie. A security perimeter has been established at the crash site as the response continues. 

“Our priority is to provide the highest level of care possible for our injured members and their families,” said Rear Adm. Megan Dean, commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th District. “We are grateful for the swift response and professional skill shown by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Petersburg Fire and Rescue members who answered our call for assistance during this critical time."

The Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the cause of the casualty. At the time of the crash, wind speeds were in the range of 30 knots and seas were about 4-5 feet, according to the Lydia Marie's crew. The second helicopter aircrew reported that when they arrived three hours later, visibility was about one quarter of a mile and wind speeds were in the range of 40 knots.