A long-range medevac mission — thought to be one of the largest ever undertaken by the Irish Coast Guard — was dramatically stood down midway through the operation last night after the condition of the casualty improved.
The 79-year-old American man, who was a passenger on board the MS Marina, suffered a suspected stroke on Thursday night when the vessel was some 330 nautical miles south-west of Valentia.
The Shannon-based Rescue 115 coast guard helicopter launched a complex ‘deep blue ocean’ operation yesterday morning.
The mission was to include two refuelling stops on ExxonMobil’s huge Eirik Raude drilling rig in the Dunquin field some 90nm off the south-west coast.
However, the operation stalled when the aircraft — which entered service in July — experienced a technical issue while refuelling on the rig just after 12pm.
It is understood a warning light linked to engine oil levels or engine oil pressure came on in the cockpit.
The Waterford-based Rescue 117 S61 helicopter was then tasked to fly two engineers out to examine the S62.
They were winched on to the rig’s helipad while Rescue 117 returned to Castletownbere to refuel.
However, as the engineers concluded their examination, and just as the mission was about to resume around 5pm, the ship’s captain radioed the coast guard to say medical help was no longer required.
It is understood the ship’s doctor, and a second doctor on holidays on the vessel who came forward to help, assessed the casualty as stable. “A decision was taken that it would be in the best interests of the patient for him to remain on board the ship. The ship is now on route to Cork. We are just glad that we were on standby and that the casualty has improved,” a Coast Guard spokesman said last night.
The Air Corps Casa aircraft provided top-cover for the day-long mission.
The MS Marina was on route from New York to Cork, and was due to arrive in Cobh early today.
The 1,250-passenger cruise ship, which left New York on May 22 on its 16-day Viking Passage, called to ports in Canada before embarking on the trans-atlantic crossing last week.
Guests pay from €3,000 for regular berths up to €10,000 for suites on the two-week voyage.
The ship is due to sail for Dublin this evening before making for Falmouth. and London.
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