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New York Air National Guard Evacuates Burned Fishermen to New Zealand 
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A New York Air National Guard LC-130 assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing takes off in Antarctica. (Courtesy photo)
Courtesy National Guard Bureau 

SCOTIA, N.Y. (01/13/2012) - An LC-130 Hercules "Ski Bird" aircraft belonging to the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing evacuated seven badly burned crew members of a South Korean flagged ship from the United States McMurdo Station in Antarctica to Christchurch, New Zealand on Thursday.

The New York Air National Guard plane was one of several supporting the United States Antarctic Program. The mission was flown at the request of the National Science Foundation which administers the Antarctic Program.

The seven crew members-four Vietnamese and three Indonesians-were injured when the crew compartment of the 167 -foot long fishing vessel Jeong Woo 2 caught fire in the Ross Sea, 372 miles from McMurdo Station and 2,301 miles from New Zealand on Wednesday.

Nearby vessels rescued 37 of the 40 crewmembers from South Korea, Vietnam, Russia and Indonesia. The three missing men are presumed to have died on board, according to the Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand.

Responding to a request for assistance by the Rescue Coordination Center the National Science Foundation research vessel, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, transported the injured individuals from the Jeong Woo 2, to McMurdo Station, the United States Antarctic Program's main research and logistical hub. Medical personnel at McMurdo then prepared the individuals for transport to Christchurch.

The original evacuation plan called for an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III to fly from Christchurch, New Zealand to pick up the injured seamen and fly them to New Zealand for treatment. Weather conditions at McMurdo prohibited the C-17 from landing.

At the request of the National Science Foundation, one of the New York Air National Guard LC-130's currently providing logistics support in Antarctica was tasked with the mission.

The LC-130 left McMurdo Station at 12:35 p.m. New Zealand Central Time on Friday (6:36 p.m. on Thursday here in New York) and arrived in Christchurch at 8:15 p.m. NZST and the patients were transferred to the RCCNZ.

Under the terms of Presidential Memorandum 6646, the National Science Foundation manages the United States Antarctic Program, through which it coordinates all U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent and aboard ships in the Southern Ocean as well as related logistics support.

Operation Deep Freeze is a joint service, on-going military activity in support of USAP. Within the scope provided by NSF policy and direction, Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica forces provides air and maritime-cargo and passenger transport throughout the Antarctic Joint Operations Area.

The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base here, flies the only ski-equipped aircraft in the United States military. The wing provides logistic support to National Science Foundation research efforts in Antarctica and Greenland.

This is not the first time the 109th Airlift Wing has been involved in rescue missions.

In November 2008 a crew from the 109th Airlift Wing transported an Australian Antarctic Division employee from Antarctica to Hobart, Australia after the Australian researcher suffered multiple fractures to his leg.

And in 1999 a crew from the 109th landed an LC-130 at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to pick up Dr. Jerri Nielsen who was treating herself for breast cancer. The crew landed earlier in the Arctic spring than had ever been done in the past.