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Stricken Sailor Gets New Medical Supplies

Sailing: Helicopter reaches boat, where Keith Kilpatrick's condition improves.

November 23, 2001|RICH ROBERTS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Royal Australian Air Force helicopter successfully dropped replacement medical supplies Thursday for an ailing American sailor aboard a Volvo Ocean Race boat in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.

Keith Kilpatrick, 40, of Long Beach, a crew member aboard Amer Sports One, has suffered abdominal pain and been unable to eat or drink since he was stricken Monday with what has been tentatively diagnosed as "severe intestinal blockage."

The crew of the boat, which is in a region notorious to mariners as the "Southern Ocean," now hopes to have a helicopter pick him up but was still about 1,000 nautical miles beyond a land-based chopper's 200-mile range on Thursday.

Alternatively, Kilpatrick could be dropped off when Amer Sports One passes inside tiny Eclipse Island three miles offshore from the old whaling village of Albany on Australia's southwest coast on Sunday or Monday.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 29, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Ill sailor--In a Sports story Friday, it was incorrectly stated that a helicopter delivered replacement medical supplies to an ailing sailor in the Indian Ocean. The supplies were dropped from an airplane.

Due to a course change from previous races, all the boats are required to follow that route to keep them within 2,000 nautical miles of rescue aircraft. Otherwise, they would probably sail farther south of Australia for better wind until turning north to finish the leg at Sydney about Dec. 2-3.

Skipper Grant Dalton said in an e-mail message, "When something like this happens you feel a great sense of isolation."

Kilpatrick has been incapacitated in his bunk under the care of navigator Roger Nilson, who has practiced as an orthopedic surgeon in Sweden. Nilson administered antibiotics and morphine but was unable at first to nourish Kilpatrick with an intravenous saline drip because conditions were too rough.

Nilson, the only licensed physician aboard any of the eight boats, reported Thursday that his patient was "a little more stable. The pain spasms are not as intense as the previous day. Keith is alert. He knows what is going on."

Kilpatrick's wife Tara left their Long Beach home Thursday to fly to Perth in Western Australia, where her husband is expected to be hospitalized.

Warren Douglas, press officer for Amer Sports One, said, "I spoke to Roger Nilson, who says Keith is suffering from a severe intestinal blockage. They want to get him off the boat as soon as they possibly can, but it will be two to three days before they get sufficiently close to the Australian coastline.

"The Australian authorities will decide whether to send a boat or helicopter, and the chances are a life raft will be needed to transfer Keith from the boat."

When the medical supplies ran low, the RAAF scheduled a daylight rendezvous with Amer Sports One about 1,200 nautical miles from shore and dropped seven "heliboxes"--13-pound packages about one foot square and three feet long equipped with flaps that cause the boxes to rotate slowly to the surface.

Dalton reported: "The Orion [helicopter] arrived smack on time. Sea conditions were good with 13 knots of wind from the west. All packages were successfully retrieved. We used the mainsail and the engine for the pickups. The operation was finished [in about 30 minutes] and Orion returned home. Looks like we have all we need for Keith."

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