Coast Guard Lt. Chris Courtney, a Tolland High School graduate, was just doing his job on September 9, when he saved a father and son from the waters off of California. However, the world has taken notice of his heroic actions.
Courtney has been interviewed for numerous TV news shows in California, magazines and even for the United Kingdom press, due to the dramatic footage taken of his rescue mission.
According to Courtney, it was an unusually busy day for the search and rescue pilot; he and his fellow crew members had already gone out on two rescue missions before receiving a call that a father and his adult son were stranded in the ocean off of the California coast.
Their Cessna 185 floatplane crashed after the engine lost power.
"Hypothermia turns up pretty quickly around here," Courtney said of the chilly fall waters. "We definitely saved their lives."
As Courtney and the rest of the crew rushed to assist the men, the camera in the hoist was turned on and recorded every moment as rescue swimmers descended to bring the men into the helicopter.
Several hovering airplanes also took photos of the scene.
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For Courtney, the unexpected media attention has created a silver lining. Rescuers were able to reach the father and son so quickly, because they were carrying a personal locator beacon, which broadcasts latitude and longitude for emergency responders. He said that the device is an important tool to help rescuers save lives.
Otherwise, Courtney said the shine of the media spotlight hasn't greatly affected his life. He will continue to serve as a search and rescue pilot for the next three years. Following a family tradition of military service, Courtney also served in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Afghanistan in the years prior to working with the Coast Guard.
"I come from a family of almost a hundred years of military service, if you add it all together," he said. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle have served in the armed forces, and Courtney met his wife while both were in the Army.
He is currently stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco.
For a blow-by-blow account of the rescue, check out the article published by the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association.