COAST GUARD ACADEMY LACROSSE PLAYERS COME TO THE RESCUE ON SPRING BREAK
By: Nate Selavka
Updated: 04/24/2010 at 4:21 PM
Negril, Jamaica – When most people think of a Coast Guard rescue, they think of the movie The Guardian - a rescue swimmer free-falling from a white and orange helicopter or a white small boat with a red “racing stripe” driving in to pull someone out of the water. For a young college girl that was injured after cliff jumping on spring break, help came in the form of three First Class (1/c) cadets – all members of the United States Coast Guard Academy Men’s Lacrosse team. What began as an ordinary spring break trip, turned into a rescue and survival situation for these cadets. Courtney McArdle, a sophomore at West Chester University, Penn., was cliff jumping with a group of sorority sisters near Rick’s Café. As she jumped off the 33-foot cliff her body turned slightly and she landed in the water with her legs bent. She knew instantly that she was seriously hurt and with much effort was helped up a short ladder and onto land by her friends.
At this time the three cadets, 1/c Andrew Cinque, 1/c Craig Velencia, and 1/c Christopher Salerno, were swimming in the water nearby and noticed something was wrong. 1/c Cinque approached the girls to investigate and was told Ms. McArdle hit the water awkwardly. Immediately sensing a possible neck or back injury, 1/c Cinque stabilized her head and neck. 1/c Salerno and 1/c Velencia were the only other cadets nearby at this time and also sprang into action. 1/c Salerno conducted crowd control to keep passersby from getting too close and also assisted 1/c Cinque with the victim. Meanwhile, 1/c Velencia went to the catamaran the cadets had arrived on to locate a backboard or anything else that could be used to transport the patient.
After initial resistance from the café, the cadets were able to contact the hotel the sorority was staying at and located a backboard. Two emergency medical technicians (EMT) from Arizona were also in the vicinity and began assisting the cadets. The five cadets and EMTs were able to slide the backboard underneath the victim and stabilize her on the board. They also checked her back for injuries and noticed bruising around the kidneys and lower back.
Agreeing that a water rescue was not the best option, the cadets and EMTs were able to carry the injured woman to the top of the cliff via a small zigzagging staircase. The rescuers waited with Ms. McArdle and her friends for 10 minutes until a bus arrived to pick the victim up and take her back to her hotel. The injured woman made her way home to New Jersey the next day where she was diagnosed with a compression fracture with a minor burst of the L1 vertebra.
While the initial actions of all three cadets were commendable, what they did in the ensuing moments speaks volumes to their character, selflessness, and situational awareness. During this incident people continued to cliff jump and Rick’s Café, the owner and operator of the cliff area, refused to assist and initially resisted requests to use their phone to contact the local hospital or hotel. While they waited for transportation to arrive and take the sorority sisters to their hotel, 1/c Cinque and 1/c Salerno pooled their money and gave it to the injured woman and two of her friends to pay for a taxi ride to the local hospital. Ultimately, the woman did not receive medical attention at the local hospital and instead flew out the next day to New Jersey where the extent of her injuries was finally diagnosed. Last, the cadets had the forethought to realize that, without any means of communication, separating from their group on the catamaran and being an hour away from their hotel with no knowledge of the local area, they could not escort the injured woman to the hospital without putting themselves at risk.
The following is a transcript of a letter from Ms. McArdle’s parents to the Commandant of Cadets. As you can see from the letter, Ms. McArdle was unable to positively identify the cadets that assisted her and it took some time to narrow down the three cadets:
Captain John Fitzgerald, USCG
Commandant of Cadets
31 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320-8103
Dear Captain Fitzgerald:
We are writing to you to express our deepest thanks to some of the cadets that attend the Coast Guard Academy. We do not know their names, but we do know that they went above and beyond to help our daughter when she was in Jamaica.
Our daughter, Courtney, is a sophomore at West Chester University. She went to Negril with a group of sorority sisters to jump at the cliffs near Rick’s Café on March 10, 2010. She attempted to jump off the 33’ cliff into the water. The only way to jump is to jump “straight as a pencil.” Unfortunately, even though she tried to control her position, the entry into the water was with legs in a bent position.
She instantly knew she was seriously hurt and with much effort, was helped out of the water.
The men (the cadets) who were swimming there immediately came over to her and started First Aid. Apparently, there was going to be no outside assistance by the local establishment. We don’t know what her situation would have been like, had these wonderful men not stopped to help her.
As we have come to realize, being hurt in a foreign country can come with many risks and little or no medical attention. The cadets stabilized her on a back board, carried her up the road, and pooled their money so she and two of her friends could make their way to a hospital in a taxi. She did not receive care at the Jamaican “hospital” and made her way home to New Jersey the next day on a commercial flight. Courtney told us of the accident as she was making her way to the airport. She could walk but was in excruciating pain.
She made her way home to New Jersey where she was diagnosed with a compression fracture with a minor burst of the L1 vertebra. She spent a week in the hospital and will have at least two months of recuperation in a brace at home. Her doctor is very optimistic that she will fully recover.
There are people in the world that are observers and people in the world that will spring into action when needed. I am very, very glad that the Coast Guard cadets helped her. Not only did they help her medically, their kindness and generosity are beyond measure.
Courtney tells us that she did not get their names but thinks that there might have been three men who helped her. Courtney thought one of them might have a cast (?) on his arm.
Please convey our best wishes to them. I am hoping you can pass along the names to me so I can thank them. I would like to be able to repay them.
Bravery, honor and compassion are trademarks of these wonderful cadets who have represented the Coast Guard Academy and our country so well.
Please extend our sincerest gratitude.
Ray and Patty McArdle
Check out: http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/2487/523315/
All three cadets are members of the Coast Guard Academy Men’s Lacrosse Team and will graduate in May and report to fleet assignments. 1/c Andrew Cinque hails from Katonah, NY (John Jay), is a Team Captain and will report aboard USCGC TAMPA, a 270-foot, medium endurance cutter out of Portsmouth, Virginia. 1/c Craig Velencia is an offensive midfielder from Columbia, MD (Atholton) and will report aboard USCGC DALLAS, a 378-foot, high endurance cutter out of Charleston, South Carolina. Finally, 1/c Christopher Salerno is from San Diego, CA and attended La Jolla High School. 1/c Cinque, 1/c Velencia, and 1/c Salerno brought immeasurable credit to themselves, the Coast Guard Academy and the United States Coast Guard.
The Bears finished the 2010 regular season with a 6-2 record en route to a 2nd place finish in the seven team Pioneer Collegiate Lacrosse League (PCLL) D2 standings. They earned a first-round bye in the PCLL D2 Conference Tournament and will face the winner of a preliminary round game in a semi-final match-up on May 1, 2010 at either 12:00 PM or 3:00 PM at the University of New Hampshire.
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