SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crews of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter and a Puerto Rico Police marine unit rescued five persons Monday afternoon from rough waters on the northern coast of Puerto Rico just off the Mar Chiquita Beach rock cliff in Manati.
“The quick response and dedicated effort of both the Coast Guard and local Puerto Rico agencies resulted in a successful rescue saving five people from the rough waters,” said Lt. Hunter Blue, Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter aircraft commander. “I hope for others this will serve as a reminder to always be aware of your surroundings and weather conditions in the area when enjoying the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.”
Rescued are three Kazakhstani nationals, two women and a man, who reportedly were caught in a strong rip current with two other men, U.S. citizens, who had dove into the water to render assistance. The three Kazakhstanis were initially able to exit the water onto the rocks when a powerful wave struck and washed them into the water once more. The two other men, one of them an off-duty Coast Guardsman, reached and assisted the three distressed swimmers until Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police rescue units arrived on scene.
Wwatchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a 911 call at 3:05 p.m. Monday reporting the distress and proceeded to launch an MH-65D Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to rescue the group. They also alerted Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) and Emergency Medical Services of the developing situation.The Coast Guard helicopter aircrew arrived on scene and located all five persons in the water struggling to stay afloat and away from the razor sharp rocks. The helicopter crew deployed their rescue swimmer and basket and safely hoisted the two women onboard and transported them to a nearby field, where they were transferred to a responding Emergency Medical Service ambulance unit for further transport to the Doctors’ Center Hospital in Manati. Meanwhile, the three men were safely recovered by the crew of a responding Puerto Rico Police FURA marine unit and transported to their boat station in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico.
“Luckily, we were able to get on scene in a very short time and prevent a more fateful outcome,” said Lt. Crystal Barnett, Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter co-pilot. “What happened to these people was unfortunate but could have been much worse. It serves as an example of why extreme caution must be taken during unfavorable weather conditions impacting the very rugged and often dangerous coastline. Many thanks to the cooperation of the local rescue and medical personnel on scene that made our jobs much easier.”
There is a National Weather Service Advisory in effect until 6p.m. Tuesday advising a high risk of rip currents along some coastal areas of northern Puerto Rico. Persons on the Beach should be vigilant for large breaking waves surging upon the shore, which can carry people of all sizes into the ocean. People should avoid being near the shore line and stay off rock formations.