When more than 1,300 stranded passengers and crew on a disabled cruise ship off the coast of Norway were tossed and traumatized by heavy seas and strong winds over the weekend, it was crews from a North Texas company that came to their rescue.
Irving-based CHC Helicopter, a global provider of the most-advanced helicopter services for offshore and onshore uses, played a critical role in the rescue, scrambling helicopter crews to the scene when the cruise liner issued a distress signal after losing engine power in high winds and 25-foot waves.
CHC’s search-and-rescue teams safely airlifted hundreds of people off the ship while it was being tossed about in the turbulent water and drifting toward a rocky shoreline. Dozens of Americans were among those rescued.
The rescue effort went on for over 18 hours; USA Today reported that more than half of the 900 passengers on board were evacuated via helicopter. CHC said that during each mission, the rescued passengers were lifted off the ship and transported to safety.
CHC deployed four helicopters to the stricken cruise ship
The company said four of its aircraft—two all-weather search-and-rescue-configured Sikorsky S-92s and two Airbus AS332s—supported the massive rescue efforts, which had to closely coordinated as the choppers operated in heavy weather.
“There are at least two or three helicopters still rescuing people from the cruise ship but there is only one helicopter in operation at one given time because of the weather,” a spokesperson from Norwegian rescue services (HRS Southern Norway) told CNN while the operation was ongoing. “They work in rotations because it is not possible to hoist people from two helicopters working at one time.”
CHC said its team included 12 pilots, six hoist operators, seven rescue swimmers, one system operator, and two engineers. CHC Global Operations Center in Dallas supported the team.
According to news reports, power was eventually restored to three of the ship’s engines and it was towed to port by tug boats.
Viking Ocean Cruises, the ship’s owner, said that roughly 20 people were injured during the ordeal.
CHC said that while the cruise ship operation was ongoing, a second incident happened nearby during early evening when the cargo ship “Hagland Captain” encountered problems in the same waters and its crew of nine needed to be evacuated.
A fifth CHC helicopter, along with an aircraft from the coast guard, provided rescue support to the distressed ship.
CHC said it offers offshore transport on six continents and operates one of the most extensive search and rescue networks in the world. Its helicopters protect offshore oil and gas workers in the North Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, both sides of the Indian Ocean, and the Timor Sea.
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.