HARFORD COUNTY — A Maryland State Police helicopter crew rescued five people stranded on the Susquehanna Flats in the Susquehanna River between Perryville and Havre de Grace, after the planned boat rescue of three waterfowl hunters ran afoul, according to police.
The protracted, multi-faceted incident started early Friday (Nov.26) night, when rescue crews from the Susquehanna Hose Company, Harford County Department of Emergency Services Special Operations and other area agencies were dispatched, after receiving reports that three hunters were stranded on the river, police reported.
“The hunters were returning from an outing, when their boat encountered problems with the shifting tides and mud,” an MSP spokesperson said.
Approximately one hour after the initial 911 call was received, the three waterfowl hunters were safely transferred onto one of the rescue boats used in the operation, police said. But the two rescuers on that boat, along with the three waterfowl hunters also on their vessel, soon found themselves in need of help, police added.
“The crew on the small rescue boat became lost and stranded in shallow water and mud,” the spokesperson said, before further explaining, “The fire company boat, located in an area of the silt and mud-laden flats, was inaccessible by other rescue boats.”
That prompted an aerial search by MSP’s Trooper 6 helicopter crew, police reported. The four-person Trooper 6 crew located the distressed rescue boat, occupied by the three hunters and two initial rescuers, shortly before 9:20 p.m. on Friday, according to police.
But then there was another snag, this one relating to Trooper 6’s capability of rescuing the five stranded people.
“The crew from Trooper 6 was running low on fuel and (it) requested the assistance of (MSP) Trooper 1 for an aerial hoist extraction,” the spokesperson said, adding that the Trooper 1 helicopter crew quickly responded to the scene.
Police reported that the two pilots flying Trooper 1 maneuvered the AW-139 helicopter into position, approximately 100 feet above the distressed boat holding the three hunters and two rescuers, and started the rescue operation.
From that hovering helicopter, a member of the Trooper 1 crew lowered a rescue basket to the side of the rescue boat, where one of the hunters climbed into it, police said. Then the basket was hoisted up to the helicopter, where the hunter was helped on board, police added.
That process was repeated four more times, according to police officials. All five people who had been stranded on the rescue boat that had been used in the initial operation were lifted safely onto the Trooper 1 helicopter, which then flew them to the nearby National Guard Armory in Havre de Grace, where they were evaluated by paramedics, police reported.
“Crews noted (that) hypothermia was the concern, as temperatures were near-freezing with winds gusting at up to almost 30 miles per hour,” the spokesperson said.
No injuries were reported during the four-hour-long operation, police reported.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew based out of Atlantic City, N.J., also was dispatched to the scene, police said. But the MSP Trooper 1 helicopter crew rescued the five people before the Coast Guard copter crew arrived, police added.
MSP officials noted that the Trooper 6 crew, which is credited with locating the five people stranded in the river on the rescue boat, had flown from Maryland State Police Aviation Command’s Easton Section at approximately 7:45 p.m. Friday after receiving the dispatch.
Moreover, according to MSP officials, the Trooper 1 crew — which executed the hoist-rescues of the five stranded people — flew from Martin State Airport near Baltimore at about 8:45 p.m. Friday, after receiving the dispatch to “assist with the extrication” of the three waterfowl hunters and two rescuers who were stranded.
The Maryland State Police Aviation Command has been in service since 1970, police reported.
It operates a fleet of 10 helicopters from seven bases throughout Maryland on a “24/7/365 basis,” police said. Missions include flying injured and sick people to hospitals (medevac); assisting in various law enforcement and emergency operations, including search & rescue; aiding in homeland security details; and providing disaster assessment, police added.
MSP officials emphasized that the “success of rescues performed by the Aviation Command depends a great deal on the cooperative effort of local fire, rescue, EMS and law enforcement agencies.”