Big surf sets stage for landmark drill

Big surf sets stage for landmark drill

HALEIWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As an Ocean Safety jet ski cut across the water, the crew in a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter pointed the way to a mock swimmer in distress off Alii Beach Park.

That's exactly what would happen during an actual rescue in treacherous ocean conditions.

"They have a bird's eye view. They can spot the patient in the water. Then they can let us know and we can go and pick him up," Ocean Safety rescue diver Jason Patterson said.

Hard to believe but until Friday, Ocean Safety, the Coast Guard and EMS had never trained together during extreme surf on the North Shore. The two-hour exercise covered two scenarios.

"They're going to come in to pick up a rescue swimmer like they would a survivor that needs help, and then pull them out of the impact zone." Coast Guard pilot Lt. Jason Gross said.

The other drill called for dropping a line to a swimmer and using the chopper to lift him out of the pounding waves.

"At times it looks flat. That's a deception," Patterson said. "All of a sudden you have a big 15-footer, and it wipes out everything."

The Coast Guard and the city kept the exercise on the drawing board until Friday's swell.

"I heard it on the radio this morning. I had my headphones on, laying in bed, and they said it was going to be 12 to 18 feet," Arizona resident Jeff Lukanuski said.

Dozens of people watched the training from the shore, impressed by the teamwork.

"You have to block out everything. You have to block out the high surf, the dangerous, hazardous conditions, and just focus on the getting the person," Patterson said.

"This training is invaluable," Gross said. "It's good to get experience in conditions like this before we're called out there to do it for the first time."

And that time will be likely be with lives on the line.

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