Thursday, December 07, 2000

Moeller grad assists sea rescue

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Kenwood native helped rescue four Navy airmen Wednesday after the S-3B Viking jet they were flying crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 65 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.

        Navy Lt. David H. Rios, 29, a 1989 Moeller High School graduate, piloted the helicopter that responded to the downed crew's 11:30 a.m. mayday.

        The airmen, stationed at the naval base in Jacksonville, had been conducting “a routine training flight” over the Atlantic when the aircraft malfunctioned and they were forced to eject, Navy officials said.

        It was not known why the jet malfunctioned. The jet is used to detect and attack submarines and doubles as an in-flight refueling site.

        An investigation is being conducted, officials said.

        Three of the four airmen suffered minor bumps and bruises, while the fourth suffered second-degree burns to his face and neck. Their identities were not immediately released.

        Stationed on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier that was about 25 miles from the crash site, Lt. Rios and three other rescuers under his command were dispatched to search for the crew.

        They were found floating in 60-degree waters about 40 minutes after their call for help, officials said.

        This is the second time Lt. Rios has been involved in a water rescue.

        In 1999, he was one of several Navy rescue pilots who saved eight tugboat workers whose vessel sank about 300 miles off the coast of Jacksonville as a result of Hurricane Floyd.

        “We don't do this for recognition,” Lt. Rios said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “We do it as a job. That is what we're trained to do, and hopefully we never have to do it, but basically when the time comes ... you get the guys to safety.

        “You have a human life that's out there on the line and you're the one put in the seat to go and find them and bring them back. It's about preserving human life,” he said.

        For his efforts in Hurricane Floyd, Lt. Rios received a Single-Action Air Medal. It was not known whether he would receive a medal for Wednesday's rescue.

        Reached Wednesday night, Lt. Rios' parents, Hector and Joan, were unaware of the son's heroism.

        “From the time he was 3, he wanted to fly planes,” said Mrs. Rios, of Kenwood. “That's always been his goal. We're very proud of him. We've always been very proud of what he does.”


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