Fishing & Boating News

McMurdo FastFind PLBs Contribute To Two Successful Rescues

by: Walker Agency,

(Aug. 16, 2004 - DELRAY BEACH, Fl) McMurdo's Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) technology has been credited with two successful rescues in the past four months. The first was a dramatic rescue of a sailboat crew at sea off the coast of North Carolina, and the second was the rescue of two passengers after an emergency landing of a small helicopter in the mountains north of Seattle, WA. On Sunday, March 7, the crew of the 35-foot sailboat, Dulcinea, left Masonboro Inlet, NC, for Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas. The boat was owned by William Fuller, Sr. and Brian Hovey, both experienced sailors. The third crew member was Tim Balding. The crossing was uneventful until later that day when a gust of wind blew the boat over, pinning the sails to the water. Once the boat righted itself, Fuller and crew found the main sails ripped. The next day the crew worked to repair the sails and the engine which has also been damaged the previous night. On Tuesday evening the Dulcinea lost power completely and crew had to consider its options. Without power and adrift in the Atlantic with only hand-held short-range radios, the decision was made when the crew noticed their lift raft had been damaged as well.    Around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10, the crew activated their FastFind PLB to let the Coast Guard know they were in need of rescue. Less than two hours after activation, at 85 miles southeast of Cape Fear, NC, the crew spotted a Coast Guard C-130 flying overhead. They were rescued within minutes by a USCG helicopter. Fuller, an active member of the Wilmington Rotary Club, invited the rescue crew to his annual Rotary Club meeting on June 1 to publicly thank them for his rescue. He also used the occasion to educate the crowd on the importance of EPIRBs and presented the rescue crews with T-shirts that noted the date and time of their heroic rescue. Although not as dramatic, the emergency landing of a small helicopter illustrated the benefits of having a PLB on board in the event of an emergency. On July 9, Robert Grafton of Vida, OR, and his 10-year old grandson were returning home after a "heli-camping" trip to Canada. The two were headed to the airport in Arlington, WA, to refuel for the final leg when Grafton heard a "pop" in the engine. The engine quickly began to lose power and Grafton decided he couldn't make the final 12 miles to the airport. Fortunately, he spotted a clearing in the rugged and mountainous terrain and made an emergency landing. "What I thought was a clearing turned out to be a bog, and shortly after touching down, one of the skids got stuck and we pitched forward," Grafton says. "The rotor was smashed and the helicopter tipped over, but neither of us were injured." Grafton and his grandson crawled out of the cockpit, taking their survival gear with them. His gear bag included a FastFind Plus PLB and he immediately activated it. He tried his hand-held transceiver and got no response, and his cell phone showed no available service. However, within two minutes he received a call from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langely Air Force Base, VA. Although he couldn't hear them, the AFRCC controllers could hear Grafton and his grandson. Grafton had purchased his McMurdo PLB as a back up to the Emergency Location Transmitter in his helicopter. He had registered his PLB in the AFRCC database. With that information, the Air Force was able to contact his family and determined that he was enroute in his helicopter. They determined that this was not a false alarm. Fortunately for Grafton, some campers nearby had spotted his emergency landing and had sent someone to Arlington for help. By the time, Grafton and his grandson had navigated their way out of the bog, the local rescue agency had someone on site to transport them to town for a quick medical check up. Neither required medical attention. When activated in an emergency, the FastFind Plus transmits a satellite distress signal to worldwide geostationary COSPAS-SARSAT satellites. The signal is then routed through the AFRCC to the nearest search and rescue authority. With its built-in GPS, the FastFind is totally self-contained and eliminates the need for any external plug in connections or additional add-on equipment. The GPS data can provide search and rescue personnel with LAT/LON information. To further assist rescue personnel, the FastFind Plus transmits a 121.5 MHz homing frequency. It also transmits its unique ID number, which can be matched to the user through registration. For more information contact the company at: McMurdo Pains Wessex, Inc. 200 Congress Park Drive, Suite 102, Delray Beach, FL 33445. Ph: 800-576-2605. Fax: 561-819-2650.