Savannah Coast Guard Crew Returns from Gulf Coast - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/07/05

Savannah Coast Guard Crew Returns from Gulf Coast

So many wanted to leave the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the only way out was up. Many got out, thanks to four Coast Guardsmen based in Savannah. They spent the last week flying rescue missions across the Gulf Coast, pulling more than 350 people to safety.

They've had a long week, and have got to be exhausted, but their thoughts are still with the people they couldn't get to before they had to leave.

Despite some rough weather, these four Coast Guardsmen landed safely in Savannah yesterday with some weary smiles for anxious friends and family. They're back from seeing and doing things they've never seen or done before.

"It blows everything else out of the water," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Laub. "There's nothing that will compare to this ever again."

Lt. Steven Foran told us, "You're in the middle of the Melpomene projects and there's six to seven hundred people in this project and they're all on their balconies because it's so hot. And all you see down there is children in diapers. I'm talking two- and three-year-old kids and it's just really heart-wrenching."

When we first met with Foran and Laub last week in Mobile, they'd been in the middle of chaos. People threatened them when they landed, and tried to force their way onto the helicopter. By the time they left, it had settled down a little.

"They realized they were in a no-win situation," said Laub. "If they get hostile with us, we'll just leave them and they didn't want that."

Even with Savannah's rescuers back home, the mission is still going strong on the Gulf Coast. Another crew flew out of Savannah yesterday morning to replace the one that got back yesterday afternoon. This new crew will be in Mobile, flying missions for about a week before they'll need to be relieved themselves.

"It hurts. It hurts a lot to see these people," said Foran. "I was stationed in New Orleans for four years, so these people to me, although I didn't know them, I feel close to them."

This four-man rescue team managed to save 355 people in the week they were there. So far, the Coast Guard as a whole has picked up more than 20,000 people with helicopters and boats.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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