Coast guard crews return from search and rescue mission to the Bahamas

Tracking the Tropics

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Two U.S. Coast Guard pilots and two rescue swimmers just returned to Air Station Clearwater after a search and rescue mission to the Bahamas.

They described the devastation and the trip. Rescue swimmer Brian Kamp says parts of the island are wiped out.

“There’s debris and devastation everywhere,” said Kamp. “Just imagine, someone setting up your lego set and just destroying it. Pieces everywhere.”

A large part of their job was trying to assess who needed help right away. Pilot Chelsea Kalil was pretty matter of fact while discussing the mission, but her voice trembled when she spoke about an encounter she had with a man towards the end of the trip.

“A gentleman who works there who is Bahamian kind of came up and said ‘thank you so much,'” said Kalil. “He said ‘God always sends his angels and his helpers’ and he was basically saying that was us in the moment.”

The crews from Clearwater joined crews from air stations in Mobile, Miami, Cape Cod and Elizabeth City.

Rescue swimmer Chad Watson described parts of the island as if a bomb had gone off.

“They’re going to need so much help, so much relief,” said Watson. “It’s just the situation overall is bad. And get them out of there. Because there’s nothing in Marsh Harbor. There were maybe a dozen houses left standing in Marsh Harbor. One government building and a clinic that were intact. Everything else had major catastrophic damage. They are just going to have to clear it and rebuild.”

U.S. Representative Charlie Crist visited the Coast Guard hangar and thanked the crews for their hard work and dedication.

“The least we can do is thank these heroes for what they do and the lives they are saving,” said Crist. “And the amount of trips they are taking over to the Bahamas even before the storm got there.”

The crews haven’t heard if this is their one and only trip to the Bahamas or if they will return.

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