Portsmouth High grad awarded medals for storm rescue missions

George R. Matthews III performed dramatic rescues as helicopter pilot

Posted 7/8/19

PORTSMOUTH — A 2003 graduate of Portsmouth High School has been honored by the U.S. Coast Guard for his heroic actions during helicopter rescue missions during Hurricane Harvey in …

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Portsmouth High grad awarded medals for storm rescue missions

George R. Matthews III performed dramatic rescues as helicopter pilot

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — A 2003 graduate of Portsmouth High School has been honored by the U.S. Coast Guard for his heroic actions during helicopter rescue missions during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Lt. George R. Matthews III, a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, carried out dramatic air rescues of displaced Houston, Texas residents in the aftermath of the hurricane, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, 2017.

We first wrote about Lt. Matthews’ rescue missions in August 2017.

Lt. Matthews recently finished his tour at Coast Guard Air Station Houston and left for his new duty station, Air Station San Francisco Detachment at Port Hueneme Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.

Upon his departure, he was awarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal and the Coast Guard Air Medal for his actions during Hurricane Harvey. 

“As an MH-65D Aircraft Commander, he flew 16 hours, including three hours at night, through life-threatening weather in the largest rescue operation in Coast Guard history,” stated the citation that accompanied his Air Medal award. 

“At the onset of the storm when impassable flood waters cut off the Air Station from vehicles, he flew a degraded aircraft through near-zero visibility, crippling rains and treacherous downdrafts to ferry crew members. Landing on highways between vehicles and other confined areas, he picked up aircrew and facilitated the first wave of the response efforts, saving 1,700 lives,” the citation continued.

“For several days he performed rescues, bravely flying between obstructions to perform hoists while combating 50-knot winds, extreme turbulence and aircraft stabilization failures. While surgically threading the hoist cable between snag hazards, he rescue 25 people, many need urgent medical care to survive. He displayed superb aeronautical acumen when he maneuvered the helicopter to tow a rescue boat on the verge of capsizing in raging floodwaters.

“Using night vision goggles, the crew located the distressed rescuers and deployed the rescue swimmer. In an unprecedented maneuver, they painstakingly dragged the vessel with the trail line for over a mile to safety, saving four lives. Lt. Matthews’ actions and skill were instrumental in the rescue of 29 lives. His courage, judgement and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.”

Lt. Matthews is the son of Victoria Matthews and George R. Matthews, Jr (Captain, USCG-retired), of Portsmouth.

After graduating from PHS in 2003, he followed his his father’s footsteps and was accepted to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He graduated in 2007 and was commissioned as an ensign in the Coast Guard, then went to Pensacola Florida Flight School and earned his Aviator Wings in 2010. 

Before arriving in Houston, he was stationed in Puerto Rico and Jacksonville, Fla., as a rescue helicopter pilot, involved in search and rescue, law enforcement and drug interdiction operations.

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