April 6, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The fighter pilot rescued off the South Carolina coast after ejecting from his F-16 suffered broken legs, facial cuts and a broken wrist, Coast Guard rescuers said Today.
55th FS (Jon Somerville collection)
The pilot, Captain Ted Shultz of the 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, ejected Wednesday afternoon about 40 miles off Myrtle Beach.
Lt. Tad Wilson, the Coast Guard helicopter pilot dispatched from Charleston arrived about 40 minutes after receiving the call. There was another fighter from Shaw as well as a Navy vessel in the area, he said.
For 30 minutes, a four-man team searched from the air. Finally, someone on the Navy ship spotted Capt. Ted Shultz on an oil sheen rolling with 5- to 6-foot seas.
What worked against the rescue crew was the fact that a pilot is a small thing in a big ocean and when they looked west for him, they were looking into the dawning sun which made it even harder to spot him. Also, the emergency locator transmitter broke during ejection and thus wasn't emitting.
Once the helicopter reached the crash scene, its crew lowered a rescue swimmer into the water to assist the pilot. Typically, that's when the Coast Guard uses a basket lowered from a helicopter to make the rescue, but his leg injuries were too severe.
Therefore they called the Navy a nearby Navy ship which launched one of its small boats to pick up Shultz and the Coast Guard crewman.
Shultz was lifted onto the small boat and then to the Navy vessel. The helicopter, meanwhile, landed on the vessel to refuel and then took Shultz to the Charleston hospital (MUSC).
The pilot was nervous they might not find him before dark because with a broken wrist and badly broken legs, Schultz couldn't reach his survival kit.
Capt. Shultz has 500 of his 800 flying hours in an F-16 and has been at Shaw for two-and-a-half years now. Rumor goes he bailed out at a speed of 700knots, which could explain the injuries he incurred.
All flights at the Air Force base in Sumter were grounded Thursday. The safety shut-down is a routine measure put in place after any crash.