The guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) located and assisted a distressed fishing vessel Feb. 14 while operating 140 nautical miles off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea
The ship, which is part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Strike Group, was headed to Civitavechia, Italy, the next scheduled port of call, when its SH-60B Seahawk helicopter discovered the drifting fishing boat in distress.
The boat’s five crew members were waving flags and shot a white flare to get the aircraft's attention. The Italian fishing vessel named Zaira SR 2437, which had no remaining fuel and no ability to communicate via radio, had lost propulsion and was drifting further out to sea. With 30 plus knot winds, high seas and a frigid temperature, the crew needed help immediately.
The helicopter lowered a search and rescue swimmer into the ocean to swim to Zaira. It was determined that the vessel was seaworthy, but needed fuel to transit back to port.
Oscar Austin deployed one of its rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) to transport fuel to the small boat. The fishing vessel successfully started and maneuvered alongside Oscar Austin to complete the underway replenishment.
The RHIB connected a fueling line from Oscar Austin's boat deck to Zaira and transferred the necessary amount of fuel to ensure its safe return to port.
Cmdr. Pete DeMane, Oscar Austin’s commanding officer, was extremely proud of the effort his crew put forth during this difficult evolution.
“Oscar Austin's crew has seen many different tactical situations throughout this deployment, and today they had the opportunity to help out fellow mariners on a humanitarian level," he said. "I am very proud of all of the hard work put forth here today.”
To show their appreciation, the Italian crew members presented Oscar Austin with a swordfish that they caught on their trip out.
Oscar Austin recently arrived in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations and will conduct Theater Security Cooperation engagements over the next few weeks before returning to homeport in Norfolk, Va.
By Ensign Hayley Edmondson, USS Oscar Austin Public