Thursday, 21 June 2012

Man Rescued at Sea After Boat Hit by Whale

MCCLELLAN AIR FIELD, CA - A Sacramento man was rescued at sea and has a whale of a tale to tell.

Max Young almost lost his life after what he believes was a whale collided with his vessel.

The accident happened late Tuesday night, 40 miles west off the coast of La Playa, Mexico.

Video shot from the nose of a Coast Guard C130, based at McClellan, shows how rough the water was that night, throwing his 50 foot boat like a toy in a bathtub.

"He saw some whales, he was whale watching, and then one breached the surface and he lost his rudder, propeller and he was taking on water," United States Coast Guard Lt. Amy Kefarl said.

Kefarl, Lt. Cmdr. Steve McKechnie and a crew were already in the air heading to San Diego when their command center got Young's distress call.

"He was taking on water and definitely needed help," McKechnie said.

It took the crew about three hours to get there, but once they were 200 miles from Young, they were able to make radio contact.

"He said, 'Thank you Coast Guard, I thought this was it,'" recalled Kefarl. "He was actually very frantic, this is in the middle of the night, he couldn't see anything. He asked me to tell his wife that he loved her, but we reassured him that help was on the way."

The LRS C130 aircraft the crew was aboard could only hover around 400 feet, but thanks to a volunteer program, called AMVER - Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel - help really was on the way. Any vessel can register with the Coast Guard, and if they're near an emergency, the Coast Guard calls them for help.

In this case, a container ship was only 60 miles away.

"We were going above him, but we can't do but so much," said McKechnie. "Thank goodness that vessel came."

When that container ship got there, Young got close enough and climbed to safety.

"It's great, it's feel really good to help someone," Kefarl said.

Young was brought back to Panama.

The Coast Guard stressed the importance of the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, the EPIRB distress signal, because Young wouldn't be alive without it.

Thursdsay night, Young's wife Debra was relieved to know that her husbad is now safe. She said his dream was to sail around the world and has spent the past decade sailing different legs of the journey.

Debra Young was actually with her husband on the boat and returned home just before the incident happened. Young was on the last leg of that worldwide expedition when he encountered the whale.

"I'm sad the boat is gone," Debra Young said. "But I'm ecstatic he's ok."

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