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Leonardo Awards Cormorant Trophy for the first time to a Joint Canada-U.S. rescue mission which saved all 31 lives from a burning, sinking trawler

  • RCAF and US Coast Guard search and rescue crews worked together in F/V Atlantic Destiny rescue
  • Nighttime rescue in freezing seas, 9 metre waves, 60 knot winds from disabled, burning, sinking fishing trawler
  • 31 crew members rescued in 12-hour drama, 125 nautical miles off Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Ottawa, 01/06/2022 - Leonardo congratulates the winners of the 2021 Cormorant Trophy which for the first time in the award’s 20-year history, goes to helicopter rescue crews from both Canada and the U.S. for the heroic F/V Atlantic Destiny Rescue on March 3, 2021.

The winners this year are the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) crews from “Rescue 904” and “Rescue 907”, from 413 Transport at Rescue Squadron at CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and “CGNR 6039” and “CGNR 6032” from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“Operating in some of the most severe weather conditions known, the respective crews have clearly exhibited incredible courage despite the known and unknown danger awaiting their arrival,” said Dominic Howe, Head of International Campaigns, Canada for Leonardo Helicopters.  “Given the exceptional bravery of the SARTechs who continued risking their own lives as they were battered against the ship during this lengthy ordeal so that others may live, this rescue is most deserving of this award.”

Major Marc Saucier of 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron said, “Multiple aircraft crew members, including those with thousands of flight hours, noted these conditions as some of the most extreme they had ever encountered.

“Given the extreme distance from shore and on-scene weather conditions in a nighttime environment, all personnel involved in the rescue demonstrated unparalleled bravery and willingness to risk their own lives in the service of others.”. Saucier continued, “Furthermore, this rescue involved a high level of international cooperation without which the lives of these mariners would surely have been lost.”

The recipients of the Cormorant Trophy are:

R907, RCAF CH-149 helicopter (Canada)

  • Capt Jeremy Appolloni, Aircraft Captain
  • Capt Sean Finn, First Officer
  • Sgt Bradley Nisbet, SAR Tech Team Leader
  • Sgt Fernando Bianco, SAR Tech Team Member
  • MCpl Daniel Domonkos, Flight Engineer

R904, RCAF CH-149 helicopter (Canada)

  • Capt Malcolm Grieve, Aircraft Captain
  • Capt Frederick Taillefer, First Officer
  • MCpl Sheldon Roy, SAR Tech Team Leader
  • MCpl Matthew Sebo, SAR Tech Team Member
  • Sgt Robin Vardy, Flight Engineer

CGNR 6039, USCG MH-60T helicopter (U.S.)

  • CDR Brian Kudrle, Aircraft Commander
  • CDR David McCown, Copilot
  • AMT2 Adam Niski, Flight Mechanic
  • AST3 Clayton Maidlow, Rescue Swimmer

CGNR 6032, USCG MH-60T helicopter (U.S.)

  • LCDR J. Travis Christy, Aircraft Commander
  • LT Craig Campbell, Copilot
  • AET1 Phillip Morales, Flight Mechanic
  • AST2 Adam Via, Rescue Swimmer

The F/V Atlantic Destiny rescue was selected from five nominated helicopter rescue missions received from across the country, by a judging panel comprising representatives of the Canadian Armed Forces, aviation media and company representatives.

The other nominated rescues included:

  • The May 13, 2001 rescue of five mariners by “Rescue 904” from 103 Squadron, from the F/V Salt Water Pride, which was disabled with a broken mast in rough seas off the northeast corner of Newfoundland.
  • The long-range helicopter mission (1,549 nautical miles) and search for a lost hunter in Naujaat, Nunavut, in strong winds, low clouds and snow, on December 3, 2021.
  • The largest mass evacuation by RCAF CH-149 Cormorant Helicopters from Agassiz, B.C, during unprecedented landslides on November 15, 2021.  A total of 311 people and 27 dogs and cats were airlifted from the disaster zone in bad weather.
  • The search and rescue of an elderly couple trapped in an overturned vehicle in a ditch, in the Saguenay region of Quebec on August 10, 2021.

About the Cormorant Trophy:

The Cormorant Trophy was commissioned by Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland) in 2002 as a trophy to be presented annually to a Canadian civilian, government or military helicopter crew performing the most demanding helicopter rescue of the year. The criteria for the award include:

  • The mission occurred within Canada’s Search and Rescue area of responsibility;
  • It was conducted by a Canadian civilian, government or military helicopter crew;
  • It involved a rescue or attempted rescue where lives were saved or the potential for saving lives was high.

Notes for Editors

Summary of the FV Atlantic Destiny Rescue

At 0000 Zulu on March 3, 2021, the Halifax Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) received a distress call from the F/V Atlantic Destiny, which was 125 nautical miles south of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on fire, taking water, with 31 personnel on board.  The ship was awash with freezing spray in 4 degree C temperatures, with 40 knot-plus winds gusting to 60 knots and Sea State 7 (6-9 metre waves).

A CH-149 Cormorant helicopter (Rescue 907) and CC-130 Hercules (Rescue 343) were dispatched from 413 Squadron at CFB Greenwood and due to the location, the JRCC requested assistance from any available U.S. Coast Guard assets in the area.

Rescue 343 quickly located the Atlantic Destiny, which had lost all power and steering control. A backup generator provided emergency power for radios. The ship’s crew had extinguished one fire in the engine room, but smoke was still visible from a second location.  Rescue 343’s crew succeeded on a second attempt in 45 knot winds at dropping a dewatering pump on board to help keep the ship afloat.

Rescue 907 arrived on scene just after midnight and began hoist operations in treacherous conditions. The first Search and Rescue Technician (SARTech) lowered to the ship had to be hoisted back after slamming into the ship’s railing, fearing he was injured. After determining he was OK, he was re-lowered to the ship successfully and was able to secure a guide line and help the second SARTech and a rescue basket down to the deck of the wildly pitching vessel.

On the first attempt to rescue two crew members, the hoist cable became entangled in the ship’s rigging and frayed. The Flight Engineer switched to the second hoist cable and brought the first two crew members on board. R907 made two more extractions for a total of six crew members before a serious flight control hydraulic malfunction forced the helicopter into a “land as soon as possible” emergency.

By now, one of two U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) MH-60 helicopters (CG6032) and an HC-144 “Ocean Sentry” aircraft (CG2313) had arrived on scene.  CG6032 took over hoisting functions while the CH-149 headed to land at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The second USCG helicopter (CG6039) still enroute, diverted to escort the CH-149 back to land in case it had to ditch in the ocean. With the arrival of the HC-144, Rescue 343 also turned to escort Rescue 907 back to base. An inspection discovered a serious hydraulic leak and the helicopter was declared out of service. Rescue 907’s crew jumped onboard Rescue 343 and returned to the scene provided guidance and advice from the air to the USCG helicopters.

CG6032 lowered a second pump to the ship and with the aid and direction of the RCAF SARTechs on the ship, were able to recover eight more crew members via rescue basket hoists. During the rescues, three of CG6032’s four guide lines were broken or torn out of the hands of SARTechs who were being violently thrown about the deck with each passing wave. 

At the end of its on-scene fuel, CG6032 left to refuel in Yarmouth with six rescued crewmembers as CG6039 arrived on scene. CG6039 lowered a third pump and then continued with multiple basket hoists of 13 crew members in continuing dangerous seas, before hitting minimum fuel levels. Escorted by Rescue 343, CG6039 headed for Yarmouth, leaving four crewmembers and the two SARTechs on board.

When CG6039 landed in Yarmouth, authorities said they had exhausted their supply of jet fuel so the two USCG helicopters were unable to return to the scene.  A second RCAF CH-149 helicopter (Rescue 904) was dispatched and escorted to the rescue scene by Rescue 343 back to the rescue site. Rescue 343 resumed overhead communication and coordination and CG2313 returned to Cape Cod for fuel.

Rescue 904 commenced hoisting the remaining crew, but the first hoist cable snagged on the wildly gyrating ship and snapped. Rescue 904 switched to the second hoist cable and lowered the rescue basket to the deck and was lifting two crew members when the ship hit a large wave. The loaded basket slammed into a rail with enough force to snap the second hoist cable.

Unable to recover any crew, Rescue 904 dropped additional supplies to the ship and departed the scene while Rescue 343 remained overhead, informed that the Canadian Coast Guard (CCGC) Vessel Cape Roger was 30 minutes away.  In the interim, as it became clear the ship would have to be abandoned, the SARTechs directed the remaining crew to launch life rafts. CCGC Cape Roger arrived and launched a Fast Rescue Craft to recover the remaining four crew and two SARTechs who were able to evacuate the ship using guide lines and rescue slings.

The F/V Atlantic Destiny sank just two hours later, with all personnel saved with only minor injuries.

Leonardo, a global high-technology company, is among the top world players in Aerospace, Defense and Security and Italy’s main industrial company. Organized into five business divisions, Leonardo has a significant industrial presence in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland and the USA, where it also operates through subsidiaries that include Leonardo DRS (defense electronics), and joint ventures and partnerships: ATR, MBDA, Telespazio, Thales Alenia Space and Avio. Leonardo competes in the most important international markets by leveraging its areas of technological and product leadership (Helicopters, Aircraft, Aerostructures, Electronics, Cyber & Security Solutions and Space). Listed on the Milan Stock Exchange (LDO), in 2021 Leonardo recorded consolidated revenues of €14.1 billion and invested €1.8 billion in Research and Development. The company has been part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) since 2010 and has been confirmed among the global sustainability leaders in 2021. Leonardo is also included in the MIB ESG index.

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