Saturday, June 6, 2020

Coast Guard to Honor Crew Lost at Sea

Posted By on Sat, Jun 6, 2020 at 2:09 PM

click to enlarge This photo shows the CG-6549 Memorial at Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. The memorial honors the crew of CG-6549 who were lost on June 8, 1997, in an effort to rescue mariners in distress approximately 60 miles West of Cape Mendocino. - PHOTOS BY PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS CORY MENDENHALL
  • Photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall
  • This photo shows the CG-6549 Memorial at Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay. The memorial honors the crew of CG-6549 who were lost on June 8, 1997, in an effort to rescue mariners in distress approximately 60 miles West of Cape Mendocino.
The U.S. Coast Guard will livestream a memorial service Monday to honor the four crewmembers lost 23 years ago during a rescue operation off the coast of Cape Mendocino.

The 8:15 a.m. service will be available for viewing on the Sector Humboldt Bay Facebook page.

The CG-6549 crew included Lt. Jeffrey F. Crane, 35, of Marshfield, Massachusetts (CG Aviator #3188); Lt. j. g. Charles W. Thigpen IV, 26, of Riverside (CG Aviator #3310); Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard L. Hughes, 33, of Black Canyon, Arizona and  Petty Officer 3rd Class James G. Caine, 26, of Hinesville, Georgia (CG Rescue Swimmer #425).

Their helicopter was responding to a sailboat with five aboard in distress amid 25-foot seas and 52 mph winds on the night of June 8, 1997. As they headed to the last known location of the lifeboat carrying the five, contact with the CG-6549 crew was lost.

While those aboard the sailboat were rescued, CG-6549 crashed during the operation and all of the crew were lost at sea.

"It is important for us to remember this crew and honor their sacrifice by continuing to stand the watch," said Capt. Mark Hiigel, the Sector Humboldt Bay commander in news release.
click to enlarge PHOTO BY PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS CORY MENDENHALL
  • Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall
Read the full Coast Guard release below:


MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — The Coast Guard honors the sacrifice of four crewmembers lost at sea in 1997 off the coast of Cape Mendocino, with a live stream scheduled Monday at Coast Guard Sector Humboldt.

The public is invited to observe the memorial on the Sector Humboldt Bay Facebook page, which is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. PDT.

Twenty-three years ago on June 8, 1997, four Coast Guard helicopter crewmembers were lost in an effort to rescue mariners in distress approximately 60 miles west of Cape Mendocino. Crewing the Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter (CG-6549) were: Lt. Jeffrey F. Crane, 35, of Marshfield, Massachusetts (CG Aviator #3188); Lt. j. g. Charles W. Thigpen IV, 26, of Riverside (CG Aviator #3310); Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard L. Hughes, 33, of Black Canyon, Arizona; Petty Officer 3rd Class James G. Caine, 26, of Hinesville, Georgia (CG Rescue Swimmer #425).

The Canadian sailing vessel, Ezara-2, contacted the Coast Guard reporting they had five people aboard and their vessel had become disabled in 25-foot seas and 45-knot winds.

Two Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento HC-130 Hercules aircraft and the Coast Guard Cutter Edisto responded to the call.

The helicopters provided the Ezara-2 with radios and a sea anchor, which stabilized the sailing vessel. Some of the Ezara-2's crewmembers were injured and the boat was damaged due to heavy seas, forcing the Ezara-2 crew to abandon ship into a life raft.

The CG-6549 crew began an instrument-guided approach to the last known position of the life raft when the HC-130 lost sight and communications with the helicopter in the darkness and heavy winds.

The Edisto arrived on scene through heavy seas and recovered all of the Ezara-2's survivors from the life raft and began searching for the CG-6549. Aircraft crews from Coast Guard Air Stations North Bend and Astoria, Navy P-3 patrol planes and Air Force HC-130 rescue airplanes joined in the search.

On the water, Coast Guard Cutters Sapelo, Buttonwood, Steadfast and Boutwell aided in the search. Scattered debris from the helicopter was located in the area and the main fuselage was recovered on the ocean floor over a month later. The crew of the 6549 was lost at sea.

"It is important for us to remember this crew and honor their sacrifice by continuing to stand the watch," said Capt. Mark Hiigel, the Sector Humboldt Bay commander.
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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