BARNEGAT LIGHT — A commercial scallop fisherman facing a medical emergency was safely airlifted from a vessel by the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday evening.
The rescue was made even more daring by the fact that the wind was blowing at 35 knots and the waves were 7 to 12 feet high, according to statements by the boat’s crew to the press.
The angler, Chris Vanbergen, 46, of Lacey, told Asbury Park Press on Friday that he was feeling better a few days after the ordeal. It was a few days into a 10-day scallop voyage aboard the Captain John, which docks here at the Viking Village, when he began to experience chest pains and increased blood pressure.
“I knew something was wrong. I lay down but couldn’t sleep much. My blood pressure was at an all time high,” Vandergen said.
He said it was 3 p.m.
The ship’s captain, Dane Knutson, radioed the Delaware Bay Coast Guard Sector and the surgeon on duty recommended that Vandergen receive medical treatment without delay.
The boat was just over 30 miles from shore, and given the ocean conditions and what would have been low tide when it got there, Knutson said he couldn’t bring the boat safely in Barnegat Inlet until the tide rises.
Knutson coordinated a plan with the surgeon and began sailing west toward Atlantic City to encounter an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter dispatched by the Coast Guard.
Additionally, a crew of 47ft motor lifeboats from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light were deployed to provide additional support.
At 5:30 p.m. the helicopter reached Captain John and dropped a swimmer directly onto the boat, who then tied Vanbergen to a sling attached to a cable and hoisted him into the helicopter.
“The swimmer was so professional. Chris was nervous, and he sat down with him, and then he said, ‘We have to get you out of here.’ We are very grateful to the Coast Guard. You have to respect what they’re doing and how they’re doing there,” Knutson said.
Coincidentally for Vanbergen, a married father of two, he said it was his first time flying in an airplane or helicopter. He said he was taken to Pomona ER, treated, and released.
When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel isn’t reporting the news, you can find him in a classroom where he’s a history teacher. Contact him @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072; email@example.com.