CLEARWATER, Fla. - Coast Guard crews from Clearwater were the first rescuers on the scene after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas. So far, they’ve rescued over 200 people, and their work continues.
But at least one team is back at Air Station Clearwater, reflecting on their missions and the conditions following Dorian.
Speaking Friday, they remained humble as they discussed their training and teamwork. But to the people on the ground, they really were angels from above.
The crews were involved in search and rescue, assessing damage -- which they said was catastrophic in some places -- and doing logistical support as well.
They described victims who had suffered injuries when their homes crumbled on them, pregnant women trying to get to a hospital to deliver, and diabetics who ran out of insulin.
"Injuries to the head by flying debris, people crushed by cars and buildings, multiple fractures to their legs and any limbs," offered Petty Officer Chad Watson. "It was bad."
They spoke matter-of-factly about carrying out the missions they trained for. But one of the pilots did get a little emotional when she recalled the thanks she got after a mission.
“The gentleman that works there who is Bahamian came up and said, ‘Thank you so much.’ And he was like, ‘God always sends his angels, his helpers.’ And he was basically saying that was us in the moment,” Lt. Commander Chelsea Kalil said. “Now, I’m emotional thinking about it. But really it’s awesome to see that’s what the Coast Guard does. We train so that when things like this happen, we can be the ones that are sent. We don’t have a second thought about going into it.”
Rep. Charlie Crist also stopped by the air station to thank the teams for their work.
Air Station Clearwater is the Coast Guard’s largest air station. Teams from around the country have been using it as a staging area before heading over to the Bahamas.