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Coast Guard in Kodiak awards Air Medals for dramatic rescue

Alaska Dispatch

More than two decades after the event, the U.S. Coast Guard this week awarded Air Medals to a helicopter crew that rescued two people from the sinking fishing vessel Wayward Wind that went down 115 miles southwest of Kodiak.

Petty Officer 1st Class Marty Heckerman and Cmdr. Joe Mattina were aboard the Coast Guard’s HH-3F Pelican helicopter that saved the lives of two people.

Debra Neilson, one of the survivors, was on hand to thank Mattin and Heckerman for rescuing her 24 years ago. Neilson noted that the Coast Guardsmen also saved the life of her future daughter, whom she was carrying at the time.

The dramatic rescue by Mattina and Heckerman date back to an era before rescue swimmers were stationed at Air Station Kodiak. Consequently, the mission required some challenging maneuvers in 15-foot seas, with 40-mph winds and blowing snow.

Rear Adm. Thomas P. Ostebo awarded the medals.