Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a call at 6:05 a.m. Friday from a bystander who reported a flare sighting and what appeared to be sailing vessel aground in the Buck Island Reef National Monument area.
A boat crew from Coast Guard Boat Forces Saint Croix, aboard a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement vessel, and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter were launched to investigate the report.
The Coast Guard boat crew arrived on-scene with the grounded sailing vessel and confirmed that there was one man onboard. The operator of the sailing vessel claimed that he was transiting from Antigua to Cuba and that he had shot the flares after the vessel had run aground.
The Coast Guard boat crew embarked the boater and transported him to Saint Croix, where he was transferred to Customs and Border Protection officers.
“This case highlights the importance of having and using flares to signal a distress situation as well as the selflessness of the people who reported the flare sighting to the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Roberto Concepcion, Coast Guard Sector San Juan command duty officer. “The prompt notification and proper use of the flares allowed for the quick rescue of the boater.”
There were no signs of pollution coming from the grounded vessel that reportedly has approximately 18 gallons of diesel fuel onboard. Coast Guard pollution investigators are monitoring the situation and coordinating with the Belgian boater and the Virgin Islands National Park Service on the salvage of the sailing vessel.