A U.S. Navy hospital ship rescued six people lost at sea in Papua New Guinea Tuesday, including an 18-month-old boy, after the group got stranded on a small island, the U.S. Navy confirmed.
San Diego-based hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is currently in Papua New Guinea for its second leg of a humanitarian mission.
The U.S. Navy said the ship sent an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter to retrieve the six injured people from Han Island, a small land mass off the coast of Carteret Island.
Officials said the group got lost at sea in a small boat and swam ashore to Han Island on Saturday. The infant made it to the island with his mother and the group.
That day, USNS Mercy was called by the Chief Secretary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) through the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby to aid in search and rescue efforts for missing boat.
The boat had been in transit from Buka to Carteret Island when it went missing.
The ship launched two helicopters with Navy search and rescue swimmers on board. They searched the area, but were unable to find the boat or any survivors.
Later, the crews discovered six of the surviving boat passengers on Han Island, all in need of medical care. The group was rescued by the chopper and transported to the USNS Mercy treatment facility.
"All patients are currently in good condition," said Capt. Melanie Merrick, the commanding officer of the military treatment facility USNS Mercy.
The Navy said additional passengers of the missing boat remain unaccounted for, but a search operation is ongoing and being led by the Papua New Guinea National Maritime Safety Authority.
According to the Navy, USNS Mercy is currently taking part on its Pacific Partnership mission – the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided real world medical care to approximately 270,000 patients.
The Mission Commander of Pacific Partnership 2015 is Capt. Chris Engdahl, who directed his maritime operations center aboard the ship to launch a helicopter for this rescue mission.
USNS Mercy left San Diego for this four-month deployment in late May.