A U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer will be awarded the IMO Bravery at sea award for his role in the rescue of four fishermen who abandoned ship in a life-raft during heavy weather off the coast of Maine.
A panel of judges decided that the rescue by Petty Officer Michael Kelly merited the 2019 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, the IMO’s highest honor for bravery. The decision was endorsed by the IMO Council at its 122nd session in London being held this week.
Kelly is an Aviation Survival Technician Second Class stationed the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod.
The rescue took place 14 November 2016 after the captain of the 76-foot fishing vessel Aaron & Melissa II radioed watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England reporting the fishing boat was taking on water and all four people on board were abandoning ship in a liferaft.
Petty Officer Kelly was part of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew sent to locate the raft and fishermen. After arriving on the scene, the aircrew located the liferaft and Kelly was immediately deployed into the water.
The weather during the rescue was reported as 20-foot seas, 30-knot winds, and the water temperature 50 degrees. Despite the conditions, however, Kelly was able to reach the liferaft’s anchor line and pull himself into it. By that point, all four survivors were suffering from hypothermia and two were unable to swim.
Kelly was able to pull each survivor from the raft and, one by one, get them into the swaying rescue basket to be hoisted to the helicopter. The rescue was captured on video and released by the U.S. Coast Guard:
The four fishermen were brought to Brunswick, Maine, where they were met by emergency medical personnel and brought to a local hospital. All four survivors were reported in good condition. Petty Officer Kelly was nominated for the award by the United States. He was selected among a total of 34 qualifying nominations received from 16 IMO Member States and four non governmental organizations.
Kelly will be presented with the award at the IMO Awards ceremony held 25 November 2019 at the IMO Headquarters in London. Another four will receive Certificates of Commendation and eight will receive Letters of Commendation.
Last year’s IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was awarded to two Houston ship pilots risked their lives to prevent a major disaster in the Houston Ship Channel after the tanker piloting lost propulsion and struck two mooring dolphins.