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Press Release | May 25, 2009

Sailors rescue 52 people adrift for a week

By None , US Naval Forces Central Command

 Lt. Katherine Scholz assists Somali migrants aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain after being rescued from a disabled skiff.
Lt. Katherine Scholz assists Somali migrants aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain after being rescued from a disabled skiff.

GULF OF ADEN (May 25, 2008) - The San Diego based guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) responded to a vessel in distress in the Gulf of Aden May 23, rescuing 52 men women and children who had been adrift in a small skiff for approximately seven days.

The crew of Lake Champlain’s embarked SH-60B helicopter from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 45 detachment Four, conducting a routine

flight in the Gulf of Aden, spotted the skiff and upon seeing the mariners in distress, notified Lake Champlain. The ship, operating approximately 30 miles away, proceeded at maximum speed to assist the skiff.

Upon arrival, Lake Champlain’s crew assessed the situation and began providing medical care to the mariners in distress.  Seventeen personnel were immediately transferred to Lake Champlain and treated for severe dehydration and other critical medical issues.  The remainder of the personnel initially remained aboard the skiff and were provided with food and water, but were later brought aboard Lake Champlain.

"U.S. Naval forces have a longstanding tradition of helping mariners in distress," said Capt. Kevin P. Campbell, Lake Champlain’s commanding officer.  "It’s fortunate that our helicopter was flying over the right place at the right time.  I’m glad we were able to be of assistance and rescue these men, women and children. Our Chief Hospital Corpsman stated that had we not found them at the time we did, the pregnant woman (who was in her third trimester) may not have survived."

The skiff experienced engine problems, due to a bad fuel mixture, leaving it unable to operate at sea.  A determination regarding the final disposition of the 52 personnel has not yet been made.

"We were very fortunate to have come across these people in the state they were in," said the ship’s Chaplain, Lt.j.g. Jarrod Johnson.  "Seeing their condition really makes your heart go out to them.  You can see the relief and hope in their eyes, and hear it in their conversation."

Lake Champlain, deployed as part of the USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, is operating as part of the Commander Task force (CTF) 51 and is deployed to

the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO). MSO helps develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.