Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Bryce Batiancela, from the "Chargers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 Detachment 3 , monitors his aircraft's distance from the hospital ship Comfort off Haiti on Dec. 12, 2022. US avy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Juel Foster.
Despite a mishap that sent 19 passengers of the hospital ship Comfort plummeting into the Caribbean, US 4th Fleet commanders will keep providing medical care to Haitians gathered at the Wharf de Jérémie.
“We had to take a short pause in our operations to ensure the safety of our personnel, but it’s important that we get back out there and continue our promise to the people of Haiti,” said Capt. Bryan Carmichael, the commodore of Amphibious Squadron 4, in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die Magazine on Wednesday, Dec. 14. “We’ve developed a plan that gets our medical providers to and from the ship safely, and provides the people of Haiti with the care they need.”
US 4th Fleet spokesperson Lewis Preddy told Coffee or Die the plan calls for heavy use of the hospital ship’s small boats and another craft from the US Coast Guard cutter Harold Miller to ferry health care teams to shore.
The Monday tumble of 12 civilians and seven military members from a small boat being craned aboard Comfort during increasingly rough seas remains under investigation.
The hospital ship Comfort (T-AH 20) anchors off the coast of Haiti on Dec. 12, 2022. Comfort is currently deployed in support of Continuing Promise 2022, a humanitarian assistance and goodwill mission conducting direct medical care, expeditionary veterinary care, and subject matter expert exchanges with five partner nations in the Caribbean, Central and South America. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Juel Foster.
Harold Miller’s crew fished out all 19 passengers and returned them safely to the Navy’s hospital ship, which was anchored off Jérémie because its draft is too deep to reach the pier.
Two sailors were treated for “minor injuries,” Preddy said.
As long as the sea state stays calm, Comfort will provide health care for the Haitians at the wharf through Friday.
Comfort’s crew also will unload what officials said is a large donation of medical supplies before the hospital ship departs for Norfolk on Saturday.
Cmdr. Michael Cunningham, a pediatric cardiologist from Chesapeake, Virginia, provides medical care during Continuing Promise 2022 at a medical site in Jérémie, Haiti, on Dec. 12, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Benjamin Lewis.
Officials told Coffee or Die the vessel should return the crew, military health providers, and civilian volunteers to its Virginia homeport before Christmas.
Comfort arrived off Jérémie on Sunday, the fifth and final stop on its Continuing Promise goodwill cruise.
Over the past 15 years, Continuing Promise caregivers have treated more than 582,000 patients and conducted more than 7,000 surgical procedures across the Caribbean and Central and South America.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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