Petty Officer Michael Kelly, a rescue swimmer with the United States Coast Guard, has received the 2019 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea during this year's IMO Awards ceremony, on 25 November, after rescuing four survivors from a life raft from a sinking fishing vessel in heavy weather.
Petty Officer Kelly, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class, USCG Air Station Cape Cod, USCG, was nominated by the US for his part in the rescue operation in November 2018.
This award was established by IMO to provide international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery in attempting to save life at sea or mitigate damage to the marine environment.
The IMO Council in July agreed with a panel of judges that AST2 Kelly demonstrated truly exceptional bravery and determination.
On 14 November 2018, during heavy storms, the crew of the rescue helicopter CG6032 was directed to provide assistance to the sinking fishing vessel Aaron and Melissa II.
The vessel's four crew members were abandoning ship in very severe weather conditions, 70 miles off the Coast of Maine, US.
After taking off, the helicopter crew immediately encountered very strong turbulence and gusts up to 60 knots. Arriving on scene, the aircrew located a life raft, battered by raging seas.
AST2 Michael Kelly was immediately deployed into the cold water. Battling 20-foot waves and chasing the raft, which was constantly being blown away by 50-knot winds, he finally managed to reach the anchor line and pull himself to the life raft.
It was a critical situation, with all four survivors suffering from hypothermia. Two were unable to swim, while the flooded raft was in danger of capsizing.
AST2 Michael Kelly pulled each survivor from the raft, one by one, swimming strongly through the storm to keep them afloat. Each was lifted into the swaying rescue basket to be hoisted to safety.
After each rescue, AST2 Kelly was forced to regain lost ground, as the heavy winds continued to push the raft further away.
He fought through extreme weather conditions, as well as physical and mental exhaustion, to save the lives of four seafarers in distress.