Local Coast Guard member relives hurricane rescues - FOX10 News | WALA

Local Coast Guard member relives hurricane rescues

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From Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate -- it was a busy storm season on the gulf coast that put local Coast Guard members from the Aviation Training Center Mobile on the front lines. 

Whether it was from the air, or by boat, they answered the first calls for help as Harvey dumped torrential rains on Houston.

Coast Guard members from ATC Mobile among the first sent out. 

"We were just responding to call after call... We get one call of a pregnant woman stuck in an attic with the water level rising," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Gantt, ATC Mobile.   

With no address, just a GPS, Gantt recalls having to locate the home after getting on the ground. After knocking on doors, he eventually found the pregnant woman and sent her up to the helicopter. However, he was also surprised she had a baby with her. 

"This baby was a literal baby. She was very small, would not fit into a rescue device so in a perfect world with the helicopter not being fuel critical... I would have sent the hook back up and had them send a basket down for the baby to ride up in, but since we were fuel critical I had to make a  quick decision and decided to throw the rescue device over my shoulder, not use it and keep it out of the way and hold the baby with both my arms...  and just give the look up to the helicopter say I'm ready to go," said Gantt. 

Harvey's wrath stretched across Texas. Crews also dispatched to hard-hit Beaumont. 

"It was like Houston all over again... There are people trapped on the roof, people trapped in the water," said Petty Officer Joshua French, ATC Mobile. 

Then an overnight sailboat rescue in open water, 220 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and 100 miles west of Sarasota. It was near the height of Hurricane Irma. The Coast Guard crew also having to manage their fuel if they are going to get back to shore. 

"He said we've got just over 30 minutes when we get on scene to pull off 4 people... One of the most challenging - I'd say the most challenging conditions of my career. And as soon as he got there he hit a little timer... So for the entire evaluation, we were picking up one person after the next... I kind of glanced at the timer ticking away towards that bingo he had set. We ended up taking the last two victims up together and making it," said Lt. Travis Christy, ATC Mobile. 

ATC Commanding Officer Bill Sasser credits the success of their missions to the level of training received at ATC -- saying every position is trained the same way, so even if you're flying with crew members for the first time from other parts of the country -- they're always ready to go. 

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