SEATTLE — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mellon returned to Seattle Thursday following a seven-week deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean after interdicting nearly 700 pounds of cocaine seized from seagoing drug smugglers.
The drugs, recovered during a single bust off the coast of Central America, are worth an estimated street value of $18.6 million, according to Coast Guard calculations. Three suspects were detained during the operation.
The more than 150-person crew of the Mellon left Seattle Oct. 25 to conduct anti-narcotics and search and rescue missions along the coast of Mexico and Central America. Their efforts resulted in six law enforcement boardings and the disruption of an additional 1,900 pounds of cocaine shipments headed for U.S. soil.
“Our job down there is to interrupt transnational organized crime,” said Lt. Steven Davies, Mellon’s operations officer. “We kept more than 2,500 pounds of cocaine off of America’s streets. We definitely made an impact.”
Just as Mellon began its journey homeward on Nov. 24, the cutter was diverted to lead search and rescue operations in the case of a missing U.S. sailor.
The sailing vessel Seven Sisters was found capsized off the coast of Mexico with no crew present after the vessel was reported as overdue to the port of Acapulco.
Over the course of nearly a week, Mellon launched its attached MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew up to four times a day and covered more than 26,000 square miles of ocean while searching for the lost sailor, California resident Tom Kardos. Extra lookout watches were set aboard the cutter in hopes of finding Kardos, but the case was suspended after the search efforts proved unsuccessful.
“We had every hope of finding this man, and we certainly tried our hardest,” said Chief Warrant Officer Beth Slade, a boatswain and surfman with extensive experience in search and rescue operations. “Our cutter, along with Coast Guard and other U.S. aircraft, and several merchant vessels scoured the area but were unable to locate him. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Another search and rescue operation involved a few unlikely survivors. About 300 miles off the coast of Guatemala, Mellon’s crew spotted four sea turtles and a dolphin entangled in more than 100 feet of abandoned fishing line. A small crew launched one of the small boats to rescue the animals and remove the debris from the water. After nearly an hour of cutting the animals free, they were released and appeared to be uninjured.
“It was a shorter patrol than most, but it was busy. There were several days the crew was up around the clock completing our missions, and that’s always worth it,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime Rivas, a machinery technician. “After two months at sea, I can’t wait to be home for Christmas with my wife and kids.”
Capt. Jose L. Jimenez commands Mellon. High endurance cutters like Mellon are built for extended offshore patrols including operations requiring enhanced communications, and helicopter and pursuit boat operations, which provide a key capability for homeland security and humanitarian missions at sea.