The show “Deadliest Catch” is beloved by fans because of the dangerous scenarios it portrays as fishermen battle the elements to bring in a decent haul and make bank.
But on a recent episode, a man very nearly did die after being crushed by 2,000 pounds of steel crab pots aboard the Patricia Lee, captained by Rip Carlton.
This time it was Francis Katungin, another fisherman, who was gravely injured after a wave hit and left him with pelvis trauma and a damaged iliac artery. Without immediate medical attention, he would likely die.
The problem was that the Bering Sea was giving them all she had in the form of an arctic storm, and with massive waves and winds at over 30 knots, air rescue was nearly impossible.
When a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter showed up, the pilot was doubtful they’d be able to extract Katungin. With quickly depleting fuel, a moving target, dangerous winds and unruly water, the likelihood that they would rescue the fisherman was extremely slim.
The pilot pulled no punches, stating just how dire the situation was after a failed attempt.
“Ultimately, if the guy dies … we did our best,” he said. “And I’d rather have one dead guy than six dead guys.
“If we have to abort, we’re going to go straight forward, we have zero five people on the helicopter.”
Another captain, Casey McManus of the Cornelia Marie, explained the gravity of the pilot’s comment: It wasn’t just arbitrary information, it was in case of a possible body count.
“That’s scary,” McManus said, according to Yahoo. “He’s doing that so if that chopper goes down, Rip knows how many guys he’s looking for. It kind of makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”
Thankfully, with only ten minutes of fuel left, the pilot was able to lower down a man who then worked with those on board to get Katangan secured on a rescue basket.
Wave after wave crashed over the bobbing ship, washing over the injured man as they got ready to hoist him up. With three minutes of fuel to go, the helicopter took off.
“That was probably the most challenging hoist we’ve ever done,” the pilot said.
While Katungin’s current status is unknown, he’s been given the best shot at treatment and recovery, thanks to the skilled Coast Guard team that risked it all to pull him in the middle of a storm.