Mom shares terrifying ordeal that saw son, 12, airlifted from Carnival cruise ship with perforated bowel

Helicopters and planes were dispatched to the Carnival Venezia ‘within hours’

James Liddell,Dan Gooding
Thursday 09 May 2024 22:20 BST
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US Air Force rescues critically ill boy from cruise ship

A mother has shared details of the terrifying ordeal that saw her dangerously ill 12-year-old son airlifted from a cruise ship by the US Air Force.

Angela Bridges’ son Aiden fell ill on the Carnival Venezia cruise ship around 400 miles off the North Carolina coast with a perforated bowel.

Medics on board did what they could but the crew declared a critical medical incident and the US Air Force was called in, with the helicopter arriving “within hours” to take him to a hospital.

“I was just screaming and crying over the helicopter blades,” Ms Bridges told Good Morning America (GMA) on Thursday. “It was very scary.”

Aiden Bridges, second from left, seen with his family including mom Angela
Aiden Bridges, second from left, seen with his family including mom Angela (Angela Bridges/ABC News/GMA)
US Air Force rescue critically ill child from a cruise ship some 400 miles from the US mainland
US Air Force rescue critically ill child from a cruise ship some 400 miles from the US mainland (U.S. Department of Defense)

She added: “I feel so much gratitude, gratefulness, toward all the people that have been integral to my son’s recovery. It’s not just the Coast Guard, or the Air Force or the doctors or the nurses, it’s all of those people.”

The family were on their way back to New York from the Caribbean, when Aiden fell seriously ill on 4 May.

His mother told GMA that medics carried out an x-ray to work out what was wrong with him.

“They did that and she said ‘it looks as though he has a perforation in his bowel,’” Ms Bridges explained. “She said ‘basically the next thing that we need to do, immediately, is get him off the ship.’”

US Air Force rescue critically ill child from a cruise ship some 400 miles from the US mainland
US Air Force rescue critically ill child from a cruise ship some 400 miles from the US mainland (US Department of Defence)

Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and two HC-130J Combat King 11 planes took off from Patrick Space Force Base in Florida.

The mission required three intricate helicopter air-to-air refuellings since the ship was so far out at sea.Aiden received life-saving treatment on board the helicopter, his mother said, before being taken to a hospital in North Carolina.

His condition is currently unknown.

Air Force rescue critically ill boy, 12, from cruise

“Everyone in the wing mobilised with exceptional speed. By uniting our efforts, we saved crucial time, delivering life-saving assistance six hours ahead of other response teams,” rescue pilot Captain Dylan Gann said.

The helicopters flew a total of 1,200 miles throughout the operation, while the ship adjusted its course in order to meet the aircraft.

US Air Force carry out mid-air refuelling
US Air Force carry out mid-air refuelling (U.S. Department of Defense)
US Air Force rescues critically ill boy from cruise ship in middle of the ocean
US Air Force rescues critically ill boy from cruise ship in middle of the ocean (U.S. Department of Defense)

“The amazing thing about this rescue is actually how smooth it went. We went from zero notification, to having aircraft ready, to having aircraft in the air,” Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underwood told ABC News.“And the young man is in the hospital in just a matter of hours.”

The cruise liner arrived in New York City as scheduled on Monday.

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