Coast Guard Players Help Injured Vacationer in Jamaica

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.

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