A crewmember in bad shape was airlifted from this tanker near Bloody Point. Photo: courtesy of Maryland State Police.

Crewmember Airlifted from Tanker on Bay near Kent Island

A tricky rescue unfolded on the Chesapeake Bay near Kent Island last week, as Maryland State Police airlifted a crew member from a moving oil tanker.

The 462-foot Chem Jupiter, flagged from Liberia, was calling on the Port of Baltimore when one of its crew had a medical emergency near Bloody Point. State police did not offer details of the medical emergency, saying only that it needed immediate attention. Just before 8:45 a.m., the Coast Guard called for state police to complete an aerial hoist from the vessel because the crew member’s condition was too sensitive for them to be transferred to a Coast Guard vessel.

The tanker was moving north at 12 knots when Trooper 6, based at the Easton Airport in Talbot County, made contact. A state trooper/paramedic was lowered onto the ship’s deck and the crew used a harness to hoist the patient and trooper back into the aircraft together. Trooper 6 transitioned to a medevac and flew the patient to Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

Bay Bulletin wanted to find out how the pilot is able to hover over a moving ship. Lt. Nathan Wheelock, Maryland State Police Commander of helicopter field operations, explains, “The pilots find the best place they can to get a point of reference, which would be some part of the boat that they’re going to look at and then they’re going to keep it in the exact same place in their viewpoint and just track along with the vessel. Any kind of boat of that size takes a long time to slow down and come to a stop, so a boat moving anywhere between 6, 10, 12 knots is really not a big deal for us as long as it’s consistent and there’s no obstructions upstream for where they’re actually headed. It really doesn’t make too much of a difference for us from an aviation standpoint.”

Lt. Wheelock says the key object is to find a fixed reference point, even if on a moving vessel.

“Hoisting as a whole is a very dynamic situation,” he says.

-Meg Walburn Viviano