San Diego

San Diego Honors Coast Guard Team That Saved Mudslide Victims

It's been three weeks since the powerful mudslides in Santa Barbara County killed at least 20 people.

United States Coast Guard San Diego Sector crews were credited with saving dozens of parents and children during the disaster and were officially thanked on Tuesday by the San Diego City Council.

"These are heroes right here, we have a great appreciation for what they did," said  Councilmember Lorie Zapf during the ceremony.

The MH-60 Jayhawk crew rescued a family, including a newborn and 9 and 3-year-old in Carpenteria as they were trapped by a mudslide.

"Mudslides are very unique. It's not something we always train for," said USCG pilot Wayne O'Donnell. "But, the Coast Guard is very good at going out over the water and hoisting off boats, but to be able to go off and assist folks off rooftops from mudslides or similar situations like from Hurricane Harvey in Houston; the Coast Guard has gotten good to help those in need."

Cameras on board the helicopter show how emergency crews helped family members out of the house and up onto the roof of their home where the Coast Guard could hoist them into a helicopter.

"Fortunately, we helped that family of five and got them to safety. Unfortunately, there were still many others missing who were not found," said O'Donnell.

The San Diego team saved almost 20 evacuees and their pets during the deadly mudslides.

"Proud feeling for me and my crew, to help out the families we did in Santa Barbara," said USCG Rescue Swimmer Erin Custer.
"There is no greater gift than to answer the call for help when your fellow American citizens are asking to come out and rescue them," said USCG Commanding Officer Captain Joseph Buzzella.

On Feb. 24, the Coast Guard will celebrate the 1-year anniversary of San Diego becoming a Coast Guard City.

San Diego is the largest official Coast Guard City. It's an honor bestowed by Congress to cities with active Coast Guard communities partaking in civic and recreational events.

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