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U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program

Katrina Archival & Historical Record Team (KART)

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Interviewee: LT Iain McConnell, USCG

Aircraft Commander, Air Station Clearwater


Interviewer: Mr. Jeff Bowdoin
Date of Interview: 4 May 2006
Place: Air Station Clearwater


 

A photo of Lieutenant Iain McConell, USCG
LT Iain McConnell, USCG


Abstract:

On August 29 2005 LT McConnell had some idea that he might be participating in the Katrina rescue operations. The next day, he was on his way to Mobile. While flying west toward New Orleans his helicopter crew performed several rescues in Slidell. They searched around the Gulfport Mississippi area because they had no idea how bad it was in New Orleans. They rescued several people who rode the storm out on a house boat that Katrina tossed on shore. The Gulf Coast was flattened but dry. It was quite the opposite in New Orleans. McConnell felt bad that they did not go straight into New Orleans. After reaching New Orleans they spent the remainder of the day rescuing people from rooftops. By the end of the day, they had well exceeded their normal flight time before returning to Mobile.  McConnell said it was a lot of fun seeing old friends but it was like a family funeral. You’re there for a sad event, but you’re also happy to see all of your relatives that you haven’t seen in a long time.  McConnell said that this was the most dangerous environment he had ever been in.  He recommended the development of a standardized method for tracking aircraft flying below by creating a team of five Coast Guardsmen who are well trained in air traffic control.  When the need arises one member would ride on each C-130 so that the procedures are the same throughout the night even after the crews change out.


Q: This is Jeff Bowdoin at Air Station Clearwater.  It is 8:01 a.m. on Thursday, May 4th and we are here with Lieutenant Iain McConnell.  If you could please state your name, your rank and spell out your name.

LT McConnell: It’s Lieutenant Iain McConnell and that’s spelled I-A-I-N M-C-C-O-N-N-E-L-L.

Q: Okay, and you are a full lieutenant?

LT McConnell: Right.

Q: And what is your time in service?

LT McConnell: I went to the Academy so I came in in ’94. I graduated there in ’98. So 12 years if you count the Academy, eight years if you don’t.

Q: Okay.

LT McConnell: So 12 years is the quick answer, sorry.

Q: [Chuckle] Can you give me a brief description of your career path; how you came to be in your present position here at Air Station Clearwater?

LT McConnell: Academy; graduated in ’98. Polar Star, which is an icebreaker in Seattle doing North Pole and South Pole work for two years from ‘98 to 2000 and then flight school in Pensacola from 2000 to 2001ish, and then Air Station Clearwater since then. And then my wife and I are going to San Diego to work at Air Station San Diego this summer.

Q: Okay, so you’re moving out of here pretty soon?

LT McConnell: So we’re moving out of here and we’ll be there for four years and then wherever we go, who knows. But it’s been a fun career path and I really liked my time on Polar Star going to both poles and doing a lot of penguin research and stuff like that. 

Q: With regard to Katrina, when were you alerted that you were going to be participating in the Katrina operations?

LT McConnell: Sure, and I have some notes here. This is my own history here but it was on Monday the 29th of August early in the morning; at 5:30 in the morning, instead of . . . I mean at 5:30 in the morning I would have just been waking up to come to work but the scheduler called me at home and told me not to come in. I should just stay home and rest and pack a bag, and I might be needed later.

Q: And so after that?

LT McConnell: Well I did; I stayed home and then later that afternoon they called me and said, “Be ready to come to work Tuesday morning really early”. So I went to work Tuesday the 30th at 3 a.m. and then we took off at 5 a.m. Eastern time and so that’s 4 a.m. Mobile time and New Orleans time, and then worked all day that day of the 30th.

Q: When you say worked?

LT McConnell: Well we took off - so all the times will be Mobile and New Orleans time - we took off at 4 a.m., flew straight to Mobile, refueled, took off, flew along the Gulf Coast and did a couple of rescues near Slidell and then went into New Orleans and did roof top rescues for the whole day. And so by the end of that day we had a lot of flight time on us. The amount of time was – just one second, I have that – well maybe 6.9, is that right? No, that’s not right. But we had a lot of flight time on us and by late afternoon on the 30th we had well exceeded our normal planned flight time because of all the bag limits, and I can explain those if you want but I’m sure you’re familiar with that. 

So we came back on the afternoon of the 30th and checked into the BOQ there at ATC Mobile which was, by that time, crowded with people coming in from all corners of the country, which was really fun. And I’ve heard some people say that it’s like being at a family funeral where you’re there for a sad reason but it’s really fun to see all these long lost relatives coming in from everywhere. And so it really was like an old home week or a reunion because pilots who I had just met or heard the names of were coming in and I was meeting them and seeing them again, and it was fun; fun in the sense that I was seeing everybody. So that was Tuesday the 30th in the afternoon. And then there was a Chief PA there who randomly cornered me and asked me if I wanted to be interviewed on MSNBC’s Hard Ball and so I was on a phone interview with, I think it was Chris Matthews, the host on Hard Ball, so that aired maybe about 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, and by that time we were done as in we were tired and had to go to bed. So I went to bed.

Q: And how long did you stay down in theater?

LT McConnell: About a week or maybe six days. I think I came back on Sunday the 4h at about noon so it was about six days.

Q: Did you have any kind of preparation, anticipation of the storm hitting the Gulf Coast?

LT McConnell: Really I didn’t. The honest answer is I didn’t know the storm was coming. During the week before the storm hit New Orleans the storm had sort of veered around southern Florida through the Keys and up along the . . . well, and there was a time there when we thought the storm would actually hit Clearwater and so for a couple days in the middle of the week before August, well during the week of like the 23rd, 24th, 25th of August, here at Air Station Clearwater we were really worried that the storm was going to hit here. We were planning to fly away from Clearwater so we were getting our crews ready and canceling training flights so that the crews would be just rested and available to go. And then after the storm was definitely not going to hit Clearwater – I mean maybe that was Friday the 26th-ish or so - our schedule office stood everybody down and said, “Just relax, have a weekend.” And so at that time I stopped paying attention and I had projects going on around the house. I think I laid sod that weekend in my front yard. I’m not sure of that but I think that’s what I was doing and I didn’t pay attention and I don’t watch TV at home. So on Monday when they told me not to come into work it was sort of a surprise. 

Q: So did you not . . . first of all to end this, Air Station Clearwater was not involved in any kind of rescue operations after Katrina went through Florida? 

LT McConnell: There were, there were two notable cases. There’s the Mary Lynn case and there’s a case where a boat with a couple of people was washed up on the shore in the Mangroves northeast of Key West. I don’t know of any other big SAR cases besides that but those cases would have happened over the weekend and obviously this place is so busy that I have no idea what happens unless I’m over in the operations center trying to pay attention. If I’m here in Admin there’s no way to know what goes on over there because we run more then one SAR case per day so there’s no way to keep track; stay on top of what’s going on.

Q: Can you describe your initial rescue?

LT McConnell: Sure. That was on Tuesday the 30th and I can describe . . . as we took off from Mobile at – let me just get this - sometime in the morning. It would have been about maybe 9 a.m. It was 10:05 a.m. on Tuesday the 30th and we took off from Mobile, flew west and went towards Slidell or so and we didn’t know anything about what was going on in New Orleans at all. We had no clue that there was any problem in New Orleans. We were just told that, “The storm had gone through and go look for damage and if we could help we should help.” Honestly we had no idea. So we just started flying West and Mobile is about at the easternmost side of were the storm caused damage but we saw a lot of damage in Mobile and to the west of Mobile, and so we thought that this is about as much damage as we were going to find anywhere. And we searched around and weaved around in the rivers and looked at people waving sheets, you know getting our attention from houses that had been folded flat by a storm surge, but the water there had drained back and so we thought we should . . . because we didn’t know how bad New Orleans was we dedicated some time looking around those houses and this would have been around Gulfport, Mississippi; in that area. And then we happened to fly over a houseboat with a couple of people onboard who had ridden the storm out in their houseboat and the whole houseboat had been picked up thrown onto U.S. Highway 90, which runs parallel to the coast right there. And we landed in the road right and a long story short; we pulled out a lady who had a deep gash in her side where she had fallen on something in the houseboat when it was picked up and thrown onto the road, We took her to a hospital in Slidell . . . and I actually went to high school in Slidell which is really cool. So it was fun to see my old city again. 

But in Slidell we were then close enough to New Orleans to start picking up little snippets of radio conversation from other helicopters which had already gone to New Orleans and the radio snippets were really interesting, like, “Hoisting from a roof here”, or “Lady waving a sheet here”, or “Flooding here”, or “Fast water here”. Those conversations just peaked our interest so we flew south toward where they were coming from. And then there was a very distinct line where we flew from the Gulf Coast, which was flattened by a storm surge but then the water drained away so it was dry, so flattened but dry, and then there was a very distinct line where New Orleans started and all the buildings were standing but everything was flooded, so a very distinct difference, and then we saw New Orleans and we started doing rescues. I’m sort of sorry that we spent so much time on the flattened but dry area instead of going straight to New Orleans at first and helping with the flooding.

Q: Was there any kind of planning for each one of your missions or sorties?

LT McConnell: Well the first sortie had no planning at all. We were just told to go do good things and see what was out there to do. But once we realized the immensity of the problem we brought that information back to the ATC Mobile operations center which is really just the lobby of the BOQ for the first couple of days until they got power back and were able to set up a better operations center in the avionics shop. But after maybe two days the planning got pretty intense, at least when it comes to frequencies and course rules and techniques. There’s no way to plan for missions because you never know what you’re going to find once you take off but at least you can prepare with, like I said, frequencies, course rules and techniques. And then improvise techniques too like using fire axes and swinging swimmers like a pendulum back and forth so they can grab onto a balcony railing that might be up on your roof eaves; things like that. Pilots started coming back with those suggestions and those would be put on a board and spread around by word of mouth and we’d just do them the next time.

Q: BOQ; can you tell us what that stands for?

LT McConnell: Oh sure, sorry. BOQ stands for Bachelor Officers Quarters. That might not be the official term they use at ATC Mobile. They might say barracks or they might say something just like bachelor quarters, but its just one big building that’s like a motel and on a normal week would probably hold 50 people but we probably had 200 people living in there.

Q: Yes.  Do have any idea how many sorties were conducted while you were down there?

LT McConnell: Yes, and I’ll define the difference between a mission and a sortie. I don’t know how many sorties I did. I’d have to look through my notes. But a mission is just one mission but one mission can have a lot of sorties. You can take off, land for gas or land to drop people off, get more gas and go, so you continue your mission even though you might have lots of sorties. 
So I did four missions into the city. One was on - and I can tell you the starting times for those - the first mission was on Tuesday the 30th and that went until the afternoon because it started really, really early in the morning. And the second mission would have been on Wednesday the 31st starting in the afternoon at 5:55 p.m. So there was a long time that had elapsed between my mission on the 29th. I’m sorry I don’t have all my data here. There was a long time that had elapsed between the very, very early flight on Tuesday the 30th and the late afternoon flight on the 31st. So during that time we were just waiting around for aircraft and here’s the reason. There were more pilots than aircraft at the beginning and because all the pilots were fresh and energetic and gung ho they took the aircraft to New Orleans and stayed in New Orleans a long time doing good things and when they were finely done and burned out they came back to Mobile where the rest of us were waiting because there were more pilots then aircraft. So we were just waiting around, like almost thinking, “Why are the pilots in New Orleans having such a good time and keeping their helicopters out there so long”, but I think it all worked out in the end. After about three days the commanders told all the pilots who’d went out, “Don’t fly for such a long time because (a): it might not be safe to push yourselves for that amount of time and also (b): bring the plane back, get it maintained and let a new set of pilots go out because they’re fresh and eager to go.” So that was the second mission.

The third mission started late at night on Thursday the 1st and then that went all night from 8 p.m. until 0406 the next day, which was the 2nd, so that was a very, very long day and a hard time of night too. We were taking off just before sunset and flying until just before sunrise so they call that the “Red Zone” in flying words. It’s a dangerous zone because you’re working against your body’s clock. 

Okay, on Saturday the 3rd I just rested. I actually don’t remember what I did but I do know that I went to the gym sometime.

And then my last flight was on Sunday the 4th. We lifted off 29 minutes after midnight and flew all morning and landed right after sunrise. I remember coming back so this would have been coming back maybe 7:00 a.m. or so on Sunday. It was 6:40 a.m. on Sunday the 4th and the ramp, or the concrete parking area at ATC Mobile where all the aircraft park, was just full of Coast Guard aircraft. It was so impressive to see because I’ve never seen so many Coast Guard aircraft in one place at one time, and I counted 18 H-60 helicopters and that might not be impressive to someone who’s been around the Department of Defense maybe but to have 18 Coast Guard H-60s in one place is unheard of and amazing, and it was fun to see. And that’s just H-60s. There were also Falcon jets and H-65s there. So those were my four missions over six days.

Q: If you could characterize, in your opinion, do you think there were any particular aspects of your training that were particularly useful to you during these missions? 

LT McConnell: Well all the hoisting training I’ve had was useful and the training of talking on the radios and monitoring three radios at the same time and talking on all three at the same time has been useful. I don’t know if we received any specific training on that but we had a lot of practice at it. It was something that a person off the street wouldn’t be able to just do. It’s like having three conversations on three different phones at the same time.

Q: Do you have any idea how many hoists you performed?

LT McConnell: Yes, but you know it’s going . . . I can get you a concise sheet of data later and I’m sorry that I didn’t bring it here, but right after this I can go and get that for you. But it was about 70ish; maybe 70 people transported and I might have hoisted about 30 of them, about that, because I was the co-pilot during these missions. So on three of the four missions I sat in the left seat and one mission I sat in the right seat. So during that mission when I sat in the right seat I was doing all the hoisting. I think I did about 20 or 30 hoists. 

Let me think here. Oh, remember how we talked earlier about the flight time of the very first flight was a long time? It was 8.6 hours, which is well over our limit.

Q: By about an hour?

LT McConnell: Well we try not to fly more then six and then basically like the longer you fly after six the more time you have to take off to reset and to rest and the 8-point-0 hours is the point where they just consider you so tired that you have to take a full 24 hours off. And so we flew 8.6, which is more than that. 

But on that first day we saved 21 people and one dog. But you asked how many hoists did I do. I think this is the one. Yes, on that second flight - and this is the flight when I got to sit in the right seat and do the hoisting - we saved 47 people, one dog and one cat, and that was a fun night. And I have a good memory from that night. We were - just so everyone knows – the H-60 is the big helicopter where the pilots, because of how long it is, the pilots sit far forward in the aircraft and the flight mech sits far back, and so sometimes it’s easy for the pilots up front to not be fully aware of what’s going on in the cabin or to not feel a physical closeness or connection with what’s going on in the back. And so when the survivors would come up on the hook . . . and also the pilots are so busy up there that they don’t look behind and see the people and talk to the people or wave at people. But when the survivors would come up it was possible to not feel a deep connection with them or to not even realize that you were saving their lives. But on that second flight when I got to sit in the right seat we picked some survivors up. We landed at the New Orleans Lakefront airport right at sunset and we were facing south. I was sitting in the right seat. I was looking west. So I’m looking off my right shoulder west and seeing the sunset and the survivors went out, and one mom, and I think she had a little baby or just a little kid, she turned around; as soon as she got outside the rotor disc and she was safe she turned around and waved at me and I waved back, and then she gave me like a praying symbol like a “Thank You, thank you”, with her hands together like in a praying symbol, and that was my first time I connected the human aspect with a technical mission and really realized that, “Wow, we’re saving people”, and that is a good memory for me. 

Q: What do you think was the most challenging aspect of your job?

LT McConnell: Just flying in that hazardous environment. It honestly was very, very dangerous and I’m surprised that no Coast Guard helicopters were hurt in the process. It was the most dangerous environment I’ve ever been in or probably ever will be in. It’s all that nighttime low level, over trees and power lines, not over trees and power lines, down in the trees and power lines, and we were doing it at all these crazy hours; between midnight and six, you know that “Red Zone” when people are really tired. And again, I think it’s amazing that no aircraft crashed or people were hurt.

Q: Aside from what you just described, were there any other risks involved in the rescues in that urban environment?

LT McConnell: Well there were some unknowns just because we didn’t know the people. We were never sure if the people on any particular roof wanted to be rescued or not and there was a big problem, as the days went on; people chose not to be rescued. They turned us away - you’ve probably heard this in your other stories - and that became sort of frustrating for us. So we were never sure, probably like a policeman is not really sure when he stops somebody for speeding; he’s never really sure how friendly that person is going to be when he walks up alongside their car. He could find someone who’s really friendly and cooperative but he could find a belligerent guy who’s going to shoot him, so it’s the same idea. Here we were at night going down, hovering over a roof, and we didn’t know if the person we were going to find was someone who wanted to be rescued or someone who was ready to shoot us because we had heard reports that people were shooting at helicopters. I’ve read in the newspaper since then that that turned out to be untrue. I’m actually not sure what the truth is but I’d be interested to find out later though. But in our minds at that time it was an absolute real threat and we had been told not to fly within about two miles of the center of New Orleans because that’s where we were told a gang had stolen a police SWAT team truck and all the weapons in the truck and were shooting at military helicopters. And so there was one night when all the helicopters in the air over New Orleans were told to go to Air Station New Orleans and shut down because they wanted to keep us away from the gunfire, and I well tell you when that was. I’m sorry. 

Q: You can check that later if you’d like.

LT McConnell: Yes, okay, I’ll check that. No, here it is in fact. This would have been on the 30th. No, Wednesday the 31st. And so Wednesday the 31st we were flying around in downtown New Orleans. We were actually trying to rescue some people off of the top of the Bell South Building in downtown New Orleans because we had been told that there were people there, and it turned out we never saw any people up there. But we were circling around the very top of the building where all the radio antennas were, and even if there had been people there it probably would have been very dangerous to get down by those antennas. But anyway, we heard this cryptic radio call saying, “All Coast Guard helicopters return to base”, so we returned to Air Station New Orleans and my aircraft commander went in and got a brief that we should stay away from the center of the city. They didn’t want to tell us on the radio. I don’t know why, it would have been quicker, but they told us in person.

Q: How long did that last; that no fly zone basically?

LT McConnell: I don’t know. It’s one of those things we heard about and that we obeyed for that night and then the next nights I don’t know if we did or not. I don’t ever remember seeing it in print. It’s one of those things where you play it by ear. There were so many rules and so many recommendations to do things it was hard to keep it straight between what was a rule and what was a recommendation and what was just a good technique, so I think everybody had their own way of doing things, which is fine, I mean at least for the beginning. I think that pilots and aircrews should be allowed to just go out and do what they think is best for the first couple of days of an operation. I have conflicting views on that.

Q: About how many evacuees did or could you transport at one time?

LT McConnell: Nineteen; that was my highest number of survivors in one flight.

Q: And did any of your evacuees need any kind of hospitalization?

LT McConnell: Yes, different people needed different things. We transported an infant baby, a mother and a doctor to a hospital. That’s an example. And then we transported some really old people from an old folks home to the New Orleans International Airport and I’m sure they were going to get some sort of care there. And other people were put into ambulances when we arrived at the cloverleaf. Have you heard about the cloverleaf?

Q: Yes.

LT McConnell: That was a great place, a great site. It was like being in the middle of an action movie. You would think Arnold Schwarzenegger was out there doing something. It was great.

Q: What, if any, elements were improvised on the spot and was there a lot of improvisation? 

LT McConnell: Yes, a lot of improvisation. But in general that’s what Coast Guard aircrews do best. We are often sent on missions where we can’t plan anything and so we just have to improvise and use common sense when we’re on-scene. We had things like hoisting to balconies, hoisting to rooftops, using a basic airman, or taking not just a flight mech and a swimmer but taking a flight mech, swimmer, and a basic airman in the back of the helicopter so that while the flight mech and swimmer are busy hoisting people the basic airman can be the person in charge of strapping the survivors into their seats and managing the cabin, and that turned out to be really, really useful.

Q: Is that not normal SOP to have that done?

LT McConnell: No, that’s not normal. But heck, I mean normally we train for ocean rescues where there’s no need for extra weight and extra people in the back, but here we’re over the land where we could pick up a load, go only two minutes away and drop them off and then come back for more. So that was a good improvisation. The fire axe thing . . . I don’t know, at first we used basket hoists for most survivors but then the swimmers found that the quick strop hoist technique was quicker so that was an improvisation, and the whole swinging like a pendulum to get a swimmer up onto a balcony underneath a roof, that’s definitely something you don’t practice to do [chuckle]. But those were fun.  Do you know the swimmer named Sara Faulkner? Have you talked to her before? Have you seen the video?

Q: Yes.

LT McConnell: She was my swimmer on that night when I was sitting in the right seat. So any of the video . . . have you seen video of her swinging up under the roof?

Q: I don’t recall.

LT McConnell: No. I’ve seen video of her swinging up underneath the roof eave and I’m happy to say that was me working as part of the team to do that and it was fun.

Q: What kind of, if there was, any level of interaction between the Coast Guard air crews and the other services flying rescue missions?

LT McConnell: Yes, there was a level of interaction. I don’t know of anything personal on my part but our Coast Guard C130’s were flying above providing coordination for all the rescue assets down below, which included other services, so they coordinated there. And I would talk to helicopters of other services and point out places where they could help versus where we could help. There was some coordination; as much coordination between them as, well maybe a little less coordination between us and other services as between our own helicopters but everybody seemed to be on the same frequency.

Q: You had mentioned that first night, or dash I should say, that you really didn’t get much guidance?

LT McConnell: Right. 

Q: And then in the subsequent days you also mentioned that there was very little guidance as far as you were told what frequencies to use. Was there any other specific guidance there that you were given, or tasking? 

LT McConnell: We were given a little map with routes drawn on it called “Course Rules” and what frequencies to use when you were on these different routes, and I think I had that for the second, third and fourth flights. But that map was hardly . . . the map was easy to use but it just wasn’t realistic in practice to use all the routes and frequencies that they published. And plus I don’t know who published the map. If it had been just . . . or I wasn’t sure if just one Coast Guard person had put this together just for our little group of Coast Guard helicopters or if some higher level had put it together, and this same map was being used by DOD and Coast Guard and civilians. Because if that map was being used only by Coast Guard we could be really happy doing our own little Course Rules but the other helicopters wouldn’t even know that we were trying to follow any patterns and they would just get in the way, and it would be less safe then if we used the common frequency. I don’t know if I’m being clear on that. But yes, so I don’t know at what level that was published but even if it was published at a high level it still wasn’t very practical because New Orleans isn’t such a big city. It isn’t a very big city. And it would have just been better to use maybe two frequencies; one for the west part and one for the east part of the city, or something like that, instead of individual frequencies for individual routes. 
What was the other part of your question?

Q: That was it. 

LT McConnell: That was it.

Q: Yes. What was the morale like among your flight crew and among the Coast Guard population in general in theater?

LT McConnell: Oh, well I think morale was high. My morale was exceptionally high. I was having such a great time and so thankful I was there, because I had a great time. I was able to do my job to the fullest and see all those people; like see all the other pilots and aircrew and meet so many people. It was sort of sad to see New Orleans like it was but if something bad was destined to happen, if something bad was going to happen, I’m privileged to have been there to help. So I had a good time and I think the other people in general were having a good time too. I know we were working long hours but we were getting good results, so that more than makes up for the long hours we were working. Some people were sad to go home but I know that people back here at Clearwater who weren’t in the rotation to go for the first week were disappointed because going for the second week was nowhere near as fun and exciting as the first week. 

Q: Do you have any suggestions for future mass rescues in an urban environment?

LT McConnell: That is a good question. I would say that the presence of a high bird or an aircraft up high to control helicopters down below is really important, and then that . . . actually yes, I have a suggestion. It seemed like the high birds, obviously because they would run out of fuel they were replaced every couple of hours by a new aircraft up there and then the new aircraft would have a new crew on it so that the new crew would have a new way of doing things. It might be a good idea if we have a team of maybe five people who are well trained at air traffic control and managing for big rescues like this or at least who have sat down and thought about procedures and frequencies and all, and this team might already exist. The Air Force probably does this all the time and probably has a team of air traffic controllers who are good at riding in airplanes, things like these AWACs planes; Airborne Early Warning planes. Anyway, if we could get the phone number of the team and then if there is an emergency like this just call the team up, get them on an airplane, fly them to whatever base is going to be launching those C-130s and have one member ride on each C-130 so that the procedures used are the same throughout the night even when the C-130s switch out. That might be really helpful. So a standardized method of tracking what aircraft are below. 

People have asked me this before and I just generally think, yes, it was sort of disorganized during the first day and a half, two days or so but that is probably not as good as it could be, but for the amount of money we want to spend practicing for this kind of emergency, for the amount of money the cities and states have to put forth towards disaster preparedness, compared to using that money for welfare or schools or other things, I think for the amount of money that we have to spend we did a great job and that it was prepared. The city responded well. The state responded well. I really have no complaints. There could have been better mass communication to residents before the storm hit and it would have been better if residents had stockpiles of hurricane supplies like water, radios, batteries, and flashlights, but obviously people did not have that stuff.

Q: Was there one rescue that really sticks out in your head?

LT McConnell: I would say yes. On that second flight when I was in the right seat hovering over - it was at nighttime - hovering over a tennis court just picking people up. The water in the tennis court was about three feet deep and people were coming out of the apartments that surrounded the tennis court on inflatable mattresses and they would just come out and we’d pick them up. It was just a memorable time, not for any particular reason but just because I was there in the middle of it doing my job.

Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?

LT McConnell: I don’t think so. I mean I now realize that I should have read through this last night and just reviewed what I’ve done. But I do remember one night we picked up a guy who had a dog and a cat with him and they were both in a small cat carrier box. It was a little dog. But so the dog and the cat were both together in the cat carrier box beating each other up because it was nighttime and the vibrations and noise and all this, so both animals were not very happy. 
We could talk about Katrina awards if you want.

Q: Well actually that’s all for today.

LT McConnell: Sure.

END OF INTERVIEW


Last Modified 11/17/2014