Coast Guard emphasizes importance of proper emergency equipment

USCG file photo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Coast Guard and Pasco County Sheriff’s Office called off a search for a missing 27-foot pleasure craft with three persons onboard near the mouth of the Anclote River at approximately 4 a.m., Thursday.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a report at approximately 11:53 p.m., from the wife of one of the members onboard the 27-foot pleasure craft stating that she had not heard from her husband since their vessel had come off from being grounded at 8 p.m.

The pleasure craft reportedly grounded and had mechanical issues on several occasions. The occupants were able to communicate with family and friends via cellular phone and by texting.

At approximately 12:40 a.m., a Pasco County Sheriff visited the residence of the owner of the vessel to see if the vessel was moored up.

The sheriff was able to speak to a neighbor who reported that he had spoken to the vessel’s operator a half an hour earlier stating that their vessel was broken down in the vicinity of the Pithlachascotee River and that they were going to call the Coast Guard for assistance, however watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg never received a call.

The Coast Guard contacted Sprint, the vessel operator’s cell phone carrier, requesting the GPS position to triangulate the vessel’s position based off of the last few calls but was unsuccessful due to the phone being turned off.

At approximately 12:45 a.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg directed crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Sand Key to launch their 25-foot small response boat to search along with members from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

Search efforts were severly hampered by low visibility that endangered searchers.

Search efforts were also hampered by the mariner’s lack of a VHF radio to communicate distress and alert others to their need of assistance.

Persons onboard the stricken vessel were communicating via cellular phone, which ultimately failed when the batteries were exhausted.

At approximately 4 a.m., Thursday, the vessels owner and operator contacted the Coast Guard via land line stating that he and the rest of his party made it home in Hudson, Fla., safely.

“The Coast Guard encourages mariners to equip their vessels with a VHF radio to alert the Coast Guard and other mariners to distress and to exploit the advantages of the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 distress communications network,” said Cmdr. Peter Martin, the deputy commander for Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “Rescue 21 can help locate the source of radio transmissions and help take the search out of search and rescue.”

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