U.S. Coast Guard and BASRA Grand Bahama strengthen partnership

A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew swept pass the shoreline above the festive crowd gathered to watch the helicopter conduct a low-hover rescue swimmer demonstration in support of BASRA’s 41st Annual Bernie Butler Swim Race on Grand Bahama Island. The demonstration highlights the day’s fundraising event for the Grand Bahamas’s all-volunteer Bahamas Air-Sea Rescue Association, or commonly known as BASRA.

BASRA Grand Bahama has held the event every August since 1960 to raise donations to cover the operating costs of its two dedicated rescue boats and volunteer aircraft based in Grand Bahama Island. The volunteers of BASRA work closely with the Royal Bahamian Defence and Police Forces in addition to the U.S. Coast Guard throughout the 700 islands of the Bahamas. BASRA responds to a multitude of emergencies ranging from airplane crashes to sinking boats to disabled and adrift fishermen. The non-profit organization receives no payment for its rescue services, and is entirely sustained through donations and fundraising events such as the annual Swim Race.

With the Bahamas less than 50 miles from Florida, the island nation is a popular destination for American boaters. When Bahamian and American boaters find themselves in distress, a BASRA volunteer radio operator is often the first to hear the MAYDAY call that triggers the search and rescue response by Coast Guard and Bahamian authorities. Through the simple but effective use of radio hails or phone calls to its well-established network of contacts at marinas and port facilities, BASRA has located thousands of boats reported missing; saving countless resource hours in unnecessary search and rescue efforts for vessels safely moored in a local marina or anchored in one of the many pristine anchorages in the Bahamas.

“Today’s rescue swimmer demonstration was a great opportunity for the Coast Guard to show our support to BASRA, one of our most critical partners in the region in which we share a mutual goal of saving lives in the Bahamas,” said Lt. Steve Drauszewski, co-pilot of the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. For the demonstration, Drauszewski and pilot Lt. Tom English maneuvered the powerful helicopter only 150 yards from Coral Beach.

As the aircraft steadied in a low hover 30 feet above the water, Coast Guard rescue swimmer Michael Thompson descended and made the short swim ashore where the cheering spectators enjoyed the opportunity to take photos of the swimmer before Thompson returned to the recovery location. Flight mechanic Justin Cimbak lowered the steel cable and harness for Thompson waiting below, and hoisted the rescue swimmer nearly as fast as he descended. The rescue swimmer demonstration provided a welcomed opportunity for the Jayhawk helicopter crew to diversify from its primary mission of law enforcement patrols in support of Operation Bahamas and Turk & Caicos (OPBAT) – a trilateral counter-drug partnership between the U.S., the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands to combat the flow of illegal narcotics throughout the region.

If you are interested in supporting BASRA Grand Bahama, please contact 242-359-4888.