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Coast Guard Rescues Family On Sailboat In Hurricane With AM-Hurricane Gordon

November 18, 1994

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ A Coast Guard helicopter flew into the teeth of Hurricane Gordon on Thursday to rescue a family of four, including an infant, from a sailboat floundering 400 miles off the North Carolina coast.

The 60-foot Marine Flower Two was on its way from Norfolk to Bermuda when the boat began filling with water in 17-foot seas and 50 mph winds. The Coast Guard sent a helicopter from Elizabeth City, N.C., after receiving the boat’s distress signal.

The helicopter had to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS America for refueling, and then fly another 250 miles to the sailboat, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Bobby Blackwell.

″I’ve done a number of rescues and this was the worst weather I’ve been in to do a rescue,″ Blackwell said.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Mario Vittone was lowered from the helicopter into the water, where he grabbed a line from the boat’s captain.

Flora Ruiz, wearing a life jacket, lowered herself into the water while holding her 4-month-old son, and Vittone took them to a basket that lifted them into the helicopter. Vittone then went back for Ruiz’s husband, Ira Hubbard, and a 13-year-old daughter, Laura Luenzia.

Coast Guard officials said all four were in good condition and were spending the night in an Elizabeth City motel. The family lives in Colombia.

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