May 22, 2005 – A person stranded in the harbor water Saturday morning was rescued in dramatic fashion by helicopter, and 5-year-old Silas Wisehart witnessed the whole thing. He was so close he even got splashed from the spray.
"It was pretty impressive. Really highly skilled," said his father, Ryan Wisehart.
That rescue, combined with drug boat chases and other high-speed pursuits made the waterfront a little more active than normal Saturday. However, the drama was staged as part of the United States Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary's special event to kick off National Safe Boating Week.
"We give these demonstrations to show what the helicopters do on a daily basis, except they do it in choppy water, not a quiet harbor," said Bob Armstrong, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard Auxillary.
A Blackhawk helicopter and custom engine pursuit boat scheduled to show their stuff at the event were called away at the last minute.
What began six years ago as a small demonstration of boating safety gear has become the largest event of its kind in the Virgin Islands. Armstrong expected to see more than 1,000 people come out to see what the Coast Guard is all about.
"We want to give people awareness on how to handle their boats and the laws of boating," said Armstrong. "An educated boater is a safe boater."
Although the harbor demos were the highlights of the event, there were several other activities to keep the spectators busy. At the dock were more than 20 displays of marine safety equipment, an inflated survival life raft, environmental displays from Coral World and the University of the Virgin Islands (including a touch-tank of sea creatures from UVI Marine Sciences), CPR demonstrations by the American Red Cross, and specialized equipment from the V.I. Army National Guard, St. Thomas Rescue and demonstrations from the V.I. Fire Department.
Also, a day-long raffle will provide nearly a hundred prizes from local merchants, hotels, restaurants, and local and national airlines and cruise lines. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit the Coast Guard Auxiliary for marine search and rescue electronics, safety equipment, and educational materials for boating safety classes.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the civilian arm of the U.S. Coast Guard, assisting the Coast Guard in the areas of public education, search and rescue, port security patrols, marine environmental awareness, courtesy vessel examinations and all areas of boating safety.
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