SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter combined efforts with the merchant vessel Tropic Express Sunday to rescue two boaters from a dinghy after their vessel reportedly sank, approximately 42 nautical miles northeast of Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The two boaters had departed from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands aboard the 45-foot recreational power boat Live Wire Sunday afternoon. Moments thereafter, the Live Wire began taking on water and started to sink forcing the boaters to abandon the vessel onto an eight-foot dinghy.
Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Rescue Sub-Center received a 406 Mhz Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon alert at approximately 6:20 p.m. Sunday, which had been activated by the boaters.
Coast Guard watchtanders launched a rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier and launched a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement vessel to search for a possible distress in the area. They also transmitted an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast advising mariners in the area of a possible distress.
Upon arriving on scene, the crew of the Coast Guard rescue helicopter was tracking the boaters EPIRB and making periodic calls on VHF-Channel 16 to find any signs of a distress. Moments after making one of the calls, the helicopter crew spotted a flare off the nose of the aircraft that had been launched from the dinghy and located the two-men safely onboard. The Coast Guard helicopter remained overhead as the aircrew vectored-in the merchant vessel Tropic Express, which was transiting in the vicinity and had diverted to assist. The Tropic Express came alongside the dinghy and embarked the boaters, who are being transported by the Tropic Express to the British Lesser Antilles island of Anguilla.
“It could have ended much differently for the two gentlemen, but they made sure they had all the proper safety equipment before they got underway, and it no doubt saved their lives,” said Lt. Jacob Conrad, MH-65 Dolphin helicopter co-pilot. “We were glad to play a part in their rescue and grateful for the assistance of the passing merchant vessel.”