Australian Navy ship provides emergency assistance to French fishing vessel

This article has photo gallery This article has a video attachmentPublished on Department of Defence (author), ABIS Sarah Williams (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, S-70B-2 Seahawk, HMAS Darwin (F04)

HMAS Darwin's embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter 'Blackout' winches Leading Seaman Medic Tracey Kearns onto the forecastle of the French vessel Cape Saint Vincent, in response to a distress signal sent from the boat. (photo: ABIS Sarah Williams)
HMAS Darwin's embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter 'Blackout' winches Leading Seaman Medic Tracey Kearns onto the forecastle of the French vessel Cape Saint Vincent, in response to a distress signal sent from the boat.

While patrolling in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, the Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Darwin provided emergency medical assistance to a heart attack victim from a French fishing vessel.

The French Fishing Vessel (FV) Cape Saint Vincent called for assistance late on the night of 10 April. The French Joint Headquarters requested Darwin’s assistance through the United Kingdom led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

HMAS Darwin's embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter 'Blackout' winches Leading Seaman Aircrewman Stephen McGreal and patient from the forecastle of the French vessel Cape Saint Vincent, to be transported back to HMAS Darwin for further medical observation.

HMAS Darwin's embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter 'Blackout' winches Leading Seaman Aircrewman Stephen McGreal and patient from the forecastle of the French vessel Cape Saint Vincent, to be transported back to HMAS Darwin for further medical observation.

Darwin sailed overnight to rendezvous with FV Cape Saint Vincent which was approximately 390 miles off the coast of Tanzania. Darwin deployed her embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter and medical team to provide an emergency aero medical evacuation (AME).

The stricken French fisherman, who was suffering heart attack symptoms, was given initial medical assistance on board Darwin. The fisherman was conscious and able to walk. He was then air lifted to Dar Es Salam, Tanzania where he is now in hospital in a stable condition.

Darwin’s Commanding Officer, Commander Terry Morrison, said Australia’s interoperability with CTF 150 and African authorities was the key to the emergency AME.

“Today we provided assistance to a fellow mariner who needed our help. We worked closely with Combined Maritime Forces to quickly and safely perform this medical evacuation. It was pleasing to assist this French national whilst also contributing to our mission,” Commander Morrison said.

“This AME comes only six weeks after Darwin worked closely with Pakistan to save 13 fishermen shipwrecked and adrift for five days in international waters,” he said.

Leading Seaman Stephen McGreal was one of Darwin’s aircrew who helped winch the French fisherman by stretcher up to Darwin’s helicopter. “It was awesome to be involved in this evacuation”, he said. “I feel proud to have been part of the team that helped this fisherman”.

Acting Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Commodore Phil Spedding said that being able to support other vessels in the maritime environment is one of the most important roles a ship can provide.

Leading Seaman Aircrewman Stephen McGreal guides the medical patient from French fishing vessel Cape Saint Vincent, from the embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk 'Blackout' once onboard the flight deck of HMAS Darwin.

Leading Seaman Aircrewman Stephen McGreal guides the medical patient from French fishing vessel Cape Saint Vincent, from the embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk 'Blackout' once onboard the flight deck of HMAS Darwin.

“Being able to render assistance to a stricken sailor at sea is something that all mariners are prepared to do when a distress call is made,” Commodore Spedding said.

Darwin and her ship’s company have on this occasion been able to provide assistance and ensure that appropriate medical care was provided to the sailor and facilitate transport to allow further treatment to occur.”

HMAS Darwin is currently deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO).

This is the 57th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy warship to the MEAO since the first Gulf War in 1990 and the 33rd deployment under Operations SLIPPER.

Operation SLIPPER is the Australian Defence Force Contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Middle East maritime security environment, an area of over two million square miles, encompassing the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.

More imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20141032.