New York Air National Guard pararescuemen aiding seamen on stricken ship in Mid-Atlantic

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y --

Seven New York Air National Guard pararescuemen are on board a cargo ship in the mid-Atlantic today, providing medical treatment for two injured crewmen after a five-hour flight and a night parachute jump into the sea.

Three crewmen aboard the Tamar, a 635-foot long bulk cargo freighter registered in the Marshall Islands were badly burned and one was killed on Monday when an explosion occurred in the ship’s forward storeroom early in the morning of April 24, according to the First Coast Guard District Rescue Coordination Center in Boston. The captain requested medical assistance.

The cause of the explosion is unknown.

The Coast Guard reached out to the Air Force because of the unique capabilities of the Air Force and Air Guard search and rescue wings.

Pararescuemen, whose primary mission is to rescue downed pilots, are trained in advanced emergency medical care as well as parachuting, scuba diving, and survival, escape and evasion.

The 106th Rescue Wing, which is based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base here, was given the mission of flying help to the Tamar, which was originally heading from Baltimore for Gibraltar but is now heading for the Azores.

The wing launched an HC-130 search and rescue aircraft from the 102nd Rescue Squadron carrying eight aircrew, seven pararescuemen and a combat rescue officer from the 103nd Rescue Squadron, and two aircraft maintainers, at 1:30 p.m.

The aircraft deployed seven pararescuemen and a rigid rescue boat into the Atlantic near the Tamar. The Airmen then boarded the boat, headed to the ship, and rendered aid to the injured seamen.

The first stick of pararescuemen were in the water at 7:50 p.m. Eastern Time, and by 10 p.m. all seven were on board and providing aid to the injured crewmen on the Tamar, according to 106th Rescue Wing operations officials.

Unfortunately an additional crewman died of his injuries before the Air Guard members could reach the ship.

With the pararescuemen on board the Tamar, the aircraft recovered to St. John's, Newfoundland, to conduct maintenance.

The Portuguese Coast Guard has now assumed responsibility for the rescue mission, since the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for coordinating rescue operations within 1,300 miles of the U.S. coast.

The Portuguese are planning to hoist the survivors onboard a helicopter for transport to the hospital in Ponta Delagada, Azores, according to 106th Rescue Wing operations.

The Tamar is about 24 to 30 hours away from the range at which a Portuguese rescue helicopter can reach the ship, according to the 106th Rescue Wing.

" The 106th Rescue Wing is happy to support the Coast Guard in this rescue mission, " said Col. Nicholas Broccoli, the 106th Rescue Wing Vice Commander. "This is what we train for and our pararescuemen, pilots, crew members and the rest of our team are the best of the best."