(CBS SF) — For the second time in a 24-hour period, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter swooped in to rescue rowers participating in the inaugural 2,400-mile Great Pacific Race from California to Hawaii.
The first call came on early Saturday when a group of four rowers reported their boat was taking on water about 75 miles west of San Luis Obispo. Conditions were too rough for the sailboat serving as the race organizers’ rescue vessel to pick up the rowers.
Then on Sunday morning, Coast Guard received another distress call from solo rower Jim Bauer about 52 miles west of Morro Bay after he reported capsizing several time in rough seas.
All five of the rescued rowers who started the race in Monterey on June 7 were taken to the hospital where they’re expected to recover.
But who picks up the expensive rescue bill? The Coast Guard and National Park Service covers the cost of rescuing people in peril while the average citizen financially fronts the risky operations.
The National Park Service spends nearly $5 million annually on search and rescue missions, which doesn’t include the cost of hundreds of thousands of man hours spent on these missions.
It’s a similar case for the Coast Guard, the leader in search and rescue operations, which comes to the assistance of an average of 114 people per day at a total cost of $680 million annually. On average, a 110-ft. Coast Guard patrol boat costs $1,147 per hour and a C-130 turboprop airplane about $7,600 per rescue hour.
Similar to local law enforcement agencies, neither the National Park Service nor Coast Guard has a policy for charging for their search and rescue of operations.
“We don’t want people in trouble at sea to hesitate to call for help for fear they’ll be charged for assistance,” said Coast Guard Lt. Anna Dixon in a statement after a rescue effort to reach a sick 1-year-old girl sailing with her San Diego family 900 nautical miles from the coast of Mexico in April. “Mariners assisting one another at sea is both a time-honored tradition and a requirement of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of the International Maritime Organization.”
Of the 13 total Great Pacific Race teams, eight remain with “Uniting Nations” leading the way at just over 1600 miles from Hawaii, their final destination.
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