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Sailors Save Iraqi Contract Worker
Navy NewsStand ^ | Journalist 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson

Posted on 05/31/2006 4:34:46 PM PDT by SandRat

KHAWR AL AMAYA OIL TERMINAL, Iraq (NNS) -- The quick response of two USS Port Royal (CG 73) crew members saved the life of an Iraqi contract worker overcome by smoke inhalation while fighting a fire on Khawr Al Amaya oil terminal (KAAOT) May 26.

As part of the Commander, Task Group (CTG) 158.1 emergency response team, Chief Hospital Corpsman Doreen Lehner and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Heather Watts were the only medical personnel on the scene when an Iraqi Southern Oil Company worker collapsed due to smoke inhalation.

Injuries from smoke inhalation and the toxic by-products of combustion in fires account for 75 percent of fire-related deaths in the United States. Typically, the victim’s lungs fill up with mucus and fluid, making it difficult to breathe. Oxygen deficiency leads to further complications, including tissue hypoxia (stiffening of the extremities) and finally, loss of consciousness.

Lehner and Watts were on Port Royal’s rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) when Cmdr. Eric Phipps, CTG 158.1 deputy commander, received word that the Iraqi had collapsed on the north side of the platform. He immediately dispatched the two corpsmen to the scene.

“He was breathing, but struggling, when we got there,” explained Lehner. “Then he slipped out of consciousness. He had a very weak pulse, and he was posturing (the stiffening of the extremities associated with hypoxia). I knew we needed to give him an IV (intravenous feed).”

Lehner and Watts had to overcome the language barrier between them and the victim’s co-workers to convince them that he needed an IV.

“I knew he was probably dehydrated, but when I gave him the IV, he stopped breathing for two to three minutes,” Lehner said.

The independent duty trained corpsman then attempted to insert a breathing tube down his throat.

“He was unconsciously fighting the tube, but he hadn’t breathed in about two minutes,” she said. “I knew we were losing him.”

“His jaw was clenched tight and his tongue was blocking his airway,” related Watts, a native of Pharr, Texas. “It was pretty scary. I was just trying to stay focused and grab everything chief was asking for. His friends were on either side of him helping us, rubbing his arms and legs to help with circulation, and praying and encouraging him to breathe.”

Lehner said she was afraid to move the Iraqi in his weakened condition, even though the platform was being evacuated. Phipps, who was torn between concern for the safety of his Sailors and the well-being of the victim, stayed with Lehner and Watts throughout the ordeal.

“There was still a certain amount of risk on the platform, but it was obvious that he was badly injured,” Phipps said. “We had to make the decision to do whatever we could to help him and the other terminal workers.”

Lehner said in desperation, she tried to insert the oral airway again. This time, it provoked his gag reflex and stimulated him to gasp for air.

“It was like he came back to life,” said Lehner. “He quickly sat up and he gasped for air, then started coughing, and coughed out a lot of that fluid. I cleared his airway, got all the fluid out and utilized the bag-valve-mask to provide rescue breathing. Then we hurried him out of there.”

The Iraqi was transported via RHIB to nearby USS Ogden (LPD 5). He stopped breathing three times before they got to their destination and had to have the oral airway reinserted to prompt his reflexes again. The team then evacuated him via helicopter to USS Peleliu (LHA 5), which has a very capable medical facility aboard. He is currently in Basra and in good condition.

“This is the first time that I’ve saved somebody’s life,” said Watts. “And it’s a reward in itself, like you’re walking on air. It’s amazing.”

Port Royal, as part of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, is deployed in support of maritime security operations (MSO) in the North Persian Gulf. MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the North Persian Gulf and protect Iraq’s sea-based infrastructure to help provide the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination.

For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: contract; iraqi; oil; platform; sailors; save; us; worker
Khawer Al Amaya Oil Terminal, North Persian Gulf - A fire aboard the Iraqi Khawr Al Amaya oil terminal (KAAOT) burns in the North Persian Gulf May 26, 2006. Initial reports indicate that the fire was caused by contract work being performed on the terminal's pumping system. Personnel aboard the terminal are being evacuated, with a small number remaining aboard to continue firefighting efforts.
U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED)
1 posted on 05/31/2006 4:34:47 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: 91B; HiJinx; Spiff; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; TEXOKIE; windchime; Grampa Dave; ...

Saviors of the Sea

2 posted on 05/31/2006 4:35:04 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat
"Saviors of the Sea."
And surely that Iraqi will remember who saved his life.
3 posted on 05/31/2006 4:54:54 PM PDT by Marine_Uncle (Honor must be earned)
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To: Marine_Uncle

There must be nothing sweeter to risk one's life to save another's.

4 posted on 05/31/2006 7:55:43 PM PDT by The_Media_never_lie
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To: The_Media_never_lie
"There must be nothing sweeter to risk one's life to save another's."
Surely. They serve with honor and commitment.
5 posted on 06/01/2006 4:43:23 AM PDT by Marine_Uncle (Honor must be earned)
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