Exclusive: Mom speaks out after Air Force rescued her son at sea from a cruise ship

The ship was more than 350 nautical miles off the coast of North Carolina.

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Thursday, May 9, 2024
Mom speaks out after Air Force rescued her son from cruise ship
Mom speaks out after Air Force rescued her son from cruise ship

A mother from Massachusetts spoke exclusively to ABC News after her 12-year-old son was part of a high-stakes cruise ship rescue by the Air Force, hundreds of miles off shore.

Angela Bridges was aboard the Carnival Venezia cruise ship with her family, including son Aiden, en route to New York City from the Caribbean when he fell seriously ill, concerning the medical team on board.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Bridges recalled the moment health professionals said, "'We're going to do an x-ray,'" and told her, "'it looks as though he has a perforation in his bowel -- the next thing that we need to do immediately is get him off the ship."

At the time of the critical medical incident, the ship was outside of North Carolina and more than 350 nautical miles off the coast.

The 920th Rescue Wing of the Air Force, consisting of two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, two HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and two teams of combat rescue officers and pararescuemen, flew to the ship's position to safely extract the patient for transport to the nearest capable medical center.

"We were standing there watching the whole time, and I, just, you know, screaming and crying over the helicopter blades," Bridges recalled. "It was very scary."

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

Other cruise-goers watched on as the rescue workers lowered down, and grabbed the boy in critical condition, followed by his mom.

"After that the whole ship like cheered and was screaming and yelling 'yay'," passenger Katie Reed who took video of the moment, told ABC News. "It was really cool to witness and see like you know that this kid got a better chance at life because of like that team was phenomenal."

Aiden is currently recovering at a North Carolina hospital.

"I feel so much gratitude, gratefulness toward all the people who have been integral to my son's recovery," Bridges said. "It's not just the Coast Guard or the Air Force, or the doctors or the nurses. It's all of those people."

"Carnival Venezia's team worked with United States Coast Guard and Air Force officials to adjust its course Saturday so a medical helicopter could rendezvous with the ship when a guest on board needed treatment ashore. The ship then resumed its route to New York, arriving as scheduled Monday morning," Carnival said in a statement to ABC News.