Airmen from the 563rd Rescue Group based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., traveled more than 1700 miles, to save two critically injured Mexican fishermen onboard the Mazatun fishing vessel, July 10, 2019.
The fishermen were injured when their vessel’s crane collapsed more than 1,300 miles southwest of San Diego in international waters at approximately 8 p.m., July 9. Fishing nets obstructed Mazatun’s propellers during the incident making the boat unable to transit under its own power. The two severely injured fishermen were transferred to Mazatun’s sister ship, Tamara, who began making the three day journey to the nearest land, a Mexican naval outpost on Socorro Island located more than approximately 840 miles away.
Due to the severity of the injuries and the ship’s isolated location, an urgent request was made for the specialized skills of U.S. Air Force Rescue. In response, the 563d RQG deployed multiple HC-130J Combat King II aircraft from the 79th Rescue Squadron to Tamara as it sailed to Socorro Island, July 10. Pararescuemen from the 48th Rescue Squadron parachuted from the HC-130J into the ocean. They intercepted and boarded the Tamara, and provided trauma care for the injured fishermen. They quickly stabilized the patients and offered continued care for the rest of the voyage to Socorro Island.
“The relationship that was built with the captain of the ship allowed a seamless integration of our PJs medical capabilities to be able to provide the best treatment for the two injured fishermen,” said Capt John Conner, 48th RQS flight commander of flight 3. “It also allowed us the opportunity to work how we were going to transfer the patient on the ship to Socorro Island. That relationship was key.”
Tamara reached Socorro harbor the evening of July 12. The pararescuemen transferred the fishermen to the Mexican naval medical clinic on the island where they would stay overnight. The next day an air ambulance transported them to Mazatlan, Mexico for further treatment.
“The unsaid skill Air Force Rescue offers is the ability to solve difficult problems in a timely fashion. This mission highlights rescue professionals’ ability to network within the 563rd RQG, 355th Wing and a greater Tucson medical community to solve an incredibly difficult problem, and continue solving problems throughout the mission’s execution which can be seen by the infil methods, follow-on aerial resupply, and transfer of care/exfil conditions,” said Capt. Michael Erickson, 48th RQS director of operations. “Air Force Rescue’s successful execution of the mission demonstrates one of the ways Davis-Monthan’s culture of readiness and problem solving skills can support the greater joint force and our mission partners.”
“This is the longest domestic rescue the 563rd RQG has accomplished,” said Lt. Col. Scott Williams, 79th RQS commander. “The unique nature and location of the accident required specialized care, and I’m proud of the job our entire team did to ensure these men returned home to their families.”