The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has released dramatic onboard video footage of a recent medical evacuation from Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse, showing just how helicopter assets approach a cruise ship and handle the evacuation procedure.
Medical evacuations occur for a number of reasons and can be assisted by pier personnel, pilot boats, or aircraft as needed for the situation and the ship’s proximity to land.
Medical Evacuation From Celebrity Eclipse
On Friday, May 19, 2023, a USCG Aircrew from Air Station Astoria was dispatched for a medical evacuation from Celebrity Eclipse, at a time when the Solstice-class cruise ship was approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the northern Oregon coast.
At the time, Celebrity Eclipse was spending a day at sea as part of its repositioning cruise from Honolulu to Vancouver, following the first part of the overall seasonal repositioning from Sydney, Australia to Vancouver.
The Honolulu to Vancouver portion of the repositioning was a 12-night sailing, calling at four Hawaiian ports before spending five days at sea prior to arriving first in Victoria, British Columbia and then, on May 21, arriving in Vancouver.
The day of the rescue was the fifth day at sea as the ship headed toward Victoria.
A male guest onboard was experiencing stroke-like symptoms when the medical evacuation was requested, and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was dispatched for the operation.
The video shows the helicopter approaching the in-motion cruise ship and hovering over the bow where the helipad is located. A gurney is lowered to the vessel, which was then used to hoist up the passenger for evacuation.
The helicopter was not able to land on the ship, because the size and weight of the MH-60 Jayhawk is too great for the structure of the ship to safely support.
The MH-60 Jayhawk is a Sikorsky design for all weather, medium range missions, with an overall range of 700 nautical miles (805 miles / 1,296 kilometers). There are currently more than 40 such helicopters in the USCG air fleet.
The helicopter’s exterior length is approximately 65 feet (19.8 meters), with an empty weight of 14,500 pounds (6,580 kilograms).
After being evacuated from the ship, the cruise guest was taken to Warrenton, Oregon – just across Youngs Bay from Astoria – to be transferred to a Life Flight aircrew, which then transported him to OHSU Hospital in Portland, which is one of the highest ranked hospitals in the United States for treatment of strokes (rankings by US News & World Report).
In order to safeguard the guest’s privacy, no further information about his condition or his traveling party has been released, and the remainder of Celebrity Eclipse‘s itinerary was unaffected.
Dramatic Rescues Recently
The US Coast Guard stands ready to assist with medical cruise ship evacuations whenever necessary, and there have been several dramatic rescues in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the same type of helicopter nearly crashed while attempting a medical evacuation from Carnival Dream. During that incident, a sudden squall blue up and the helicopter had to abandon its efforts, though a second crew later completed the evacuation successfully.
On another busy weekend, Coast Guard Air Station San Diego made three separate evacuations from three different cruise ships, all within a 24-hour period.
Medical evacuations do happen regularly from cruise ships, but the reasons vary. Most often, the incidents involve life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, injuries that the cruise ship’s medical center may be unable to successfully treat, or conditions that may require surgery or long-term treatment unavailable onboard.
Sometimes, the incidents are unusual, like the guest who was evacuated from Carnival Dream earlier this month for ingesting a battery.
The USCG and related emergency personnel on land, onboard cruise ships, and manning evacuation transportation are all highly trained and dedicated, and perform their duties expertly to preserve the lives and safety of everyone needing their services, no matter what the situation.