San Diego A teenager who suffered a ruptured appendix at sea, hundreds of miles from help, got an unusual rescue when the Navy airlifted her to an aircraft carrier for emergency surgery.
Laura Montero, 14, fell ill aboard the Dawn Princess cruise ship off the coast of Baja California. The Bahamian ship sent out a distress call Friday that was answered by the USS Ronald Reagan, which was on training maneuvers about 500 miles away.
The nuclear carrier was the closest ship with a hospital facility, according to a news release from the Navy. It steamed overnight toward the cruise ship, which was about 250 miles northwest of Cabo San Lucas when the call went out.
A helicopter took off from the Reagan around 5 a.m. Saturday to close the final 175-mile gap between the ships. The crew arrived after a 45-minute flight and lowered a medic onto the cruise ship deck in a basket because there wasn't space to land, said Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Leland, the pilot.
Montero, who was on an antibiotic drip, was loaded into a litter basket, lifted into the helicopter and flown back to the Reagan for surgery. Her mother stayed aboard the cruise ship.
"We practice this all the time, but this is the first time I've pulled a civilian off a cruise ship," Leland said.
Montero, of Albion, Ill., returned to the mainland Tuesday aboard the aircraft carrier that came to her rescue. She is expected to make a full recovery.
The Dawn Princess returned to San Diego over the weekend. The Reagan returned Tuesday morning, its scheduled return from the training tour.