Rescuers in Horrendous Conditions to Rescue Three

The seas were so bad the rescue basket was damaged - then the liferaft capsized
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The difficulty of rescuing yacht crews in adverse conditions was underlined this week by the tragic death of a Detroit sailor on the Yacht Freefall when the rescue bid which saved his crew mates failed to save him and injured the rescuer.

Phil Rubright was killed and three others injured, including a U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer, when a 44-foot sailboat began sinking in rough seas off the New Jersey coast about 100 miles southeast of Atlantic City. Rescued were Teresa Garvie, 44, and Kevin Hogan, 52, both of Mount Pleasant, S.C.

The three were aboard the sailing vessel Freefall when it sent a distress signal around 7:15 p.m. A Coast Guard plane and helicopter were launched from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.

The rescue crews located the stricken vessel shortly after 1 a.m. but were unable to hoist the passengers from the craft due to extreme weather conditions, including rain, high winds and 40- to 50-foot seas, the Coast Guard said.

A rescue swimmer entered the water and attempted to place Rubright into a rescue basket, but a large wave damaged the basket and hoist cable.

The helicopter crew then deployed a life raft and Rubright was placed in it. Another large wave hit the raft, injuring the rescue swimmer and tossing Rubright from the raft, the Coast Guard said. The injured swimmer was unable to recover Rubright.

The helicopter crew deployed an emergency recovery device to hoist the rescue swimmer from the water, called for assistance and flew to Atlantic City to seek treatment for him. The injured swimmer, whose name was not released, was treated and released, the Coast Guard said.

Additional helicopters then were launched from Air Station Atlantic City and Cape Cod, Mass., along with three Coast Guard cutters.

The Cape Cod helicopter crew recovered Rubright from the water and flew him to Atlantic City, where he was pronounced dead by the Atlantic County medical examiner.

A second helicopter crew from Elizabeth City hoisted the surviving passengers from the boat shortly before 8 a.m. and flew them to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, where they were treated for mild hypothermia, the Coast Guard said.