Captain and Rescuer Die in Disastrous Medevac Operation

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

On Wednesday, December 5 at roughly 4PM, crew members aboard the W-STAR — a general cargo ship — radioed the Taiwanese Coast Guard to request an immediate emergency rescue for their captain.  According to initial media reports, the 40-year-old captain of the W-STAR, an Indonesian national, had suddenly collapsed and fallen unconscious, and was foaming at the mouth.

The W-STAR was only 11 nautical miles from Taiwan’s coastline at the time of the call, but given the nature of the emergency and the need for immediate medical attention, Taiwanese Coast Guard authorities chose to send out an air rescue helicopter.

The helicopter (with rescue personnel on-board) soon arrived at the W-STAR’s location and hoisted the captain on board to airlift him back to shore.  Unfortunately, weather conditions at the time of the airlift were extremely poor, with strong currents and winds making the procedure quite dangerous.  It was reported, that the conditions caused one of the helicopter rescue personnel — who had hoisted the captain into a sling — to be swung into the W-STAR knocking him unconscious as a result.

Sadly, after transporting Captain and the injured helicopter crew member to shore side medical facilities in Taipie, both men were pronounced dead.

The news deeply saddens us all.  Rescuers are often under-appreciated, despite the fact that they put their health and safety at-risk whenever they perform a complicated medevac.  It is sometimes easy to forget how dangerous it is to serve as emergency rescue personnel.  Once all investigations are completed, it is possible that the family members of the deceased men will discover that they have actionable wrongful death claims.

Medevacs Must Be Properly Coordinated and Account for Circumstantial Factors

Medevac rescues must not only be coordinated quickly to ensure that an ailing crew member or passenger can receive care in a timely manner, but the rescue itself must be properly executed.  Proper execution demands a comprehensive evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the rescue event.  Not all situations require the same equipment, personnel, or strategy.

An improperly execute medevac n expose the target — and rescue personnel — to an unreasonable risk of harm.  Under some circumstances, even bystanders can experience significant risk of injury.

In the present case, poor weather conditions caused the hoisted captain and rescuer to swing into the W-STAR, knocking the rescuer unconscious (and ultimately killing him).  It would be fool hardy to speculate on what should have been done differently to avoid the outcome that came to be, perhaps a water rather than air rescue or a cage rather than a crew on a hoist. Sometimes, conditions are such that the risk of harm to the rescuers and the chances of survival for the injured are such that the attempt is not undertaken at all.

The Sea is a dangerous mistress, and those that make a living form her and travel upon her are, even today often at her Mercy.

We Can Provide Comprehensive Legal Assistance

Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined experience representing passengers, crew members, and their family members in maritime injury litigation.  We have litigated numerous claims, including those that arise out of failed medevac operations — whether the medevac involved a cargo ship crew member (such as the captain in the present case) or a cruise ship passenger.

We are a client-focused firm with a commitment to achieving significant results.  Over the years, we have helped our clients secure over $200 million in compensation through favorable verdicts and settlements.

Contact Lipcon to speak to an experienced maritime lawyer about your claims.