The Coast Guard chopper made another pass over the trawler’s deck, lower and slower this time, to confirm what the aircraft commander suspected. Two armed members of the MSST—Marine Safety and Security Team—crouched in the chopper’s doorway, alert for signs of life. From the air it looked like the four men in the drifting boat were sleeping. Upon closer inspection the truth about the bodies sprawled in grotesque poses told of a violent end. The Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk banked and hovered, its blades whipping the sea into concentric circles of angry spray. A serpentine line uncoiled to the listing boat, and two helmeted, figures wearing black and green dry suits, and carrying Colt M4s, rappelled to the deck. One quick look confirmed the obvious—the four men were dead.
“Gunshot wounds,” radioed one of the search party. “Messy, sir.”
“Roger. Tow’s five-zero minutes out. How’s the boat?” “May not be in time, sir. She’s in bad shape.” The two worked their way below and emerged moments later to report the vessel was taking on water. While one guardsman photographed the carnage, the other guided a wire stretcher carrying body bags being lowered from the helicopter. The men worked fast as the bow settled and water lapped at the wheelhouse. The basket made two trips above with the four corpses zipped into rubber bags. Scrambling into a two-man sling, the guardsmen were plucked from the doomed boat just before it slipped under the waves.
With position marked and tow aborted, the Jayhawk and its grisly cargo headed north to Air Station New Orleans, its home base at Belle Chasse, Louisiana.