IRVING, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The details unfolded like a movie script: passengers on board the cruise liner Viking Sky panicking as the stalled ship see-sawed.
Many grabbed their phones to record the icy water gushing across the floors, the furniture sent flying.
“We came so close to having a catastrophic event out there,” said Ruth Mcintyre, traveling with her husband, David.
“Very, very scary, very frightening,” added passenger Rodney Horgan after being evacuated. “The best word I suppose is surreal.”
And yet, ultimately successful. Thanks in large part to Irving-based CHC Helicopters.
The 70-year-old company is hardly a household name, yet it has been in the rescue business for some half a century.
But perhaps none as spectacular as the weekend heroics in an icy Norwegian sea.
“Yes, this was an extraordinary situation due to the sheer number of evacuees involved,” says Managing Director Per Andre Rykhus.
Over 18 harrowing hours, nearly 500 passengers were plucked from the stranded vessel, with Rykhus overseeing everything from helicopter flight patterns, to refueling to keeping fresh crews in the cockpit. All this during weather conditions that could only be described as treacherous.
“Winds up to gale force and wave heights of 30 to 40 feet,” says Rykhus. “So it is challenging weather conditions; but, again, the crews that are taking part in rescue operations like this, they are trained to do rescue operations under all conditions.”
Rykhus averred when asked if he was relieved when all passengers were safely ashore, saying instead, “I always trust that our employees are up to the task.”
But the global North Texas-based company still wasn’t done.
The CHC helicopters had to rescue the crew of a cargo ship sent to the area to assist in the rescue of the cruise liner. The cargo ship engines also failed.
“Eventually [the ] situation became quite critical,” says Rykhus. “So the crews from the cargo vessel had to jump to sea– they were also hoisted onto helicopter and brought safely on shore.”