Sick Passenger Airlifted From Cruise Ship

At 8.30 pm on Saturday June the 11th, the cruise liner "Independence of the Seas" called Portland Coastguard to report they had a very sick passenger on board in need of urgent evacuation.

The passenger is wheelchair-bound with very little mobility and the ship's captain reported that she was in a critical condition. 

The coastguard rescue helicopter was scrambled from Portland and flew out to intercept the cruise ship approximately 23 miles south of Portland Bill. 

Additional complications were that the casualty and wheelchair were too heavy for the helicopter winch capability, and the ship's helicopter landing pad too light for the six tonne weight of the helicopter. 

The helicopter winch-man was put on board the ship to assess the situation, and while doing so the rescue helicopter flew back to the airbase to take on more fuel.

When the helicopter arrived back on scene at 10.16 pm, the passenger was ready for an airlift and the ship's crew had cleared the decks of benches and other loose items which might have endangered the helicopter.

As the ship was approaching the beginning of the Off-Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme south of Portland Bill, Portland Coastguard broadcast a request to all shipping in the area to give the rescue operation a wide berth. 

Several ships were seen to comply.

The coastguard helicopter pilot skilfully touched the wheels of the aircraft onto the moving deck of the Independence of the Seas, keeping the rotors powered-up so that no weight was taken by the relatively fragile landing pad. 

The passenger, in her wheelchair, was lifted into the hovering helicopter, along with her husband, and airlifted to Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, where they were met by coastguard rescue officers from the Wyke Regis Coastguard Rescue Team at 11.35 pm.

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