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January 15, 2021

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The Coast Guard Commendation Medal to BHS grad

Blaize Potts

Bluffton High School grad Petty Officer Blaize Potts, serving in the United States Coast Guard in Alaska, recently received a citation for outstanding achievement while serving as flight mechanic aboard a Coast Guard HH-65C helicopter this past January. This rescue was selected for an award to be presented at a helicopter expo in Houston in February 2010.

The crew of which Potts was a member was dispatched from Cold Bay, Alaska, to evacuate a severely injured crewman with severe head trauma from the F/V Kodiak.

Vertigo inducing weather with blowing snow, 100-foot ceilings, zero visibility, and icing conditions forced the crew to make the 90-mile transit through mountainous terrain at only 150 feet above the water.

Once overhead the F/V Kodiak, the crew attempted several combinations of hovering and vessel course to no avail, finally they determined a dead in the water hoist, although the most difficult, would be the safest.

Potts conned the helicopter into position where 30 knot winds, high antennas, and bright deck lights required the pilots to hover at 100 feet with no visual reference to the vessel and depend solely on his commands.

On the first deployment the combination of the winds and heaving vessel resulted in the rescue swimmer being swung into a crane, but Potts' reassured the pilots and a second attempt was successful. Despite his hands being numb from the bitter cold, he stabilized the hoist cable as the litter swung violently towards the pilot house during the hoisting of the patient.

According to the Coast Guard report, Potts's vigilance and quick reaction prevented further injury to the deteriorating patient. While enroute to Cold Bay, Potts assisted with the stabilization of the injured crewman.

Potts is a 2001 BHS grad. He is the son of Anita Richard, formerly of Bluffton.