When commercial lobsterman John Aldridge was reported missing aboard the 44-foot vessel Anna Mary, a massive search effort ensued. Rescue crews from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York all came together to search for Aldridge in area larger than the state of Rhode Island. The man entrusted with communicating to the assets and crews? Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Davis.
Aldridge was last seen aboard Anna Mary during watch reliefs while the vessel was underway off Montauk, N.Y. Coast Guard watchstanders received report of the missing lobsterman around 6:30 a.m., July 24. Davis was on watch as the communication unit watchstander and was first to respond to the mayday call over the radio.
His response commenced a search lasting approximately eight hours as he faced the difficult task of communicating between the search mission coordinator and the myriad assets in a complex search covering more than 1,100 square miles.
Davis, an operations specialist for two years, was the hub for seven Coast Guard boats, cutters and aircraft; 15 volunteer vessels from the local fishing fleet; and a good Samaritan airplane. He provided direction to 100 people on 23 different assets, all while maintaining the radio guard for an Auxiliary flight and relaying status checks of the 47-foot rescue boat through an aviation asset.
The radio was ablaze with chatter between boats operating on scene; between Davis and search assets; and back-and-forth with the Anna Mary. The communications center was filled with cacophony only a trained ear could understand. Davis was that trained ear.
Although many would have been overwhelmed by the tremendous span of control and flow of information, Davis remained composed. Often, Davis prompted the command duty officer and other watchstanders ahead of critical points to provide direction, new search patterns, return to base instructions and crew reliefs, just to name a few.
“OS3 Davis embodies the Coast Guard core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty,” said Lt. Shannon Smith, the command center supervisor. “He is truly a leader on the watch floor and his initiative and positive attitude has become contagious. I know that every command duty officer and operational unit controller feels comfortable and confident when they see OS3 Davis at the radio.”
Eight hours after the mayday call, an aircrew from Air Station Cape Cod located Aldridge 36 miles south of Montauk, N.Y. The aircrew deployed a rescue swimmer who hoisted Aldridge, who had been using his rubber boots as flotation devices throughout the ordeal. Aldridge was taken to a local hospital and treated for dehydration, exposure and hypothermia.
“The search and rescue coordination between the Coast Guard, its partner agencies and fishermen was exceptional,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Walter, the officer-in-charge of Station Montauk. “The fishing crews allowed us to search a much greater area. To find this man in the water after this much time is amazing.”
Aldridge’s sister, Cathy Patterson, expressed her gratitude for the responders saying, “I’d like to thank all the agencies, fisherman and friends for their efforts to find my brother.”
Due to his ability to effectively communications between all search assets and crews, a family who feared the worst heard great news. Davis was a true lifesaver. One only needs to see the joy on Patterson’s face to understand how truly great the news was.