U.S. Navy Medevacs Seafarer Suffering from a Stroke off Saipan

Antwerpen Express
Antwerpen Express off Saipan (USN)

Published Feb 11, 2024 8:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the U.S. Navy medevaced a stroke victim from the deck of the container ship Antwerpen Express off the coast of Saipan. These missions are conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard in most areas under American jurisdiction, but in Guam, Navy helicopter pilots do the heavy lifting for long-distance medevacs.

On February 6, the Coast Guard rescue coordination unit in Guam received an alert that there was a crewmember in need of urgent medical attention aboard the Hapag Lloyd boxship Antwerpen Express. The 37-year-old victim was exhibiting symptoms of a stroke and needed to be medevaced as soon as possible. A flight duty surgeon determined that evacuation was necessary, and Navy helicopter squadron HSC-25 prepared to assist. However, Antwerpen Express was still 550 nm off the coast of Saipan, and the rendezvous would have to wait until the ship was within range. 

On the morning of February 9, a Knighthawk helicopter from HSC-25 flew out to meet the Antwerpen Express off Saipan. Conditions were favorable, and the crew safely brought the mariner aboard the helicopter. He was delivered to first responders in Guam without further incident. 

Image courtesy USN

With its MH-60 helicopters, HSC-25 can reach up to 150 miles off the coast of Guam for medevac and SAR duties. It regularly serves patients onshore and offshore in the Marianas Islands.

"HSC-25 conducts more medical evacuations and search and rescue missions than any other Navy helicopter unit. We take great pride in our ability to support the people of Guam and mariners navigating these waters. [This] operation is a testament to our team's dedication and expertise," said Cmdr. Neil Toohey, commanding officer of HSC-25.

The U.S. Air Force base at Guam also periodically contributes to ultra-long-range SAR operations. Last July, the Air Force diverted four regularly-scheduled cargo plane flights to assist in a search for missing fishermen near Nukuoro, a remote atoll about 900 nm off the coast of Guam. One of the cargo jet aircrews spotted the missing men about 10 nm to the south of the atoll, and the U.S. Coast Guard vectored in a good samaritan merchant ship to carry out a rescue.