SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crews of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter and a Puerto Rico Police marine unit combined efforts to rescue three boaters stranded on a reef Tuesday night near Palomino Island, just off Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
The rescued men reportedly were forced to abandon an 18-foot-wooden vessel after it struck a rock and began taking on water. The boaters, who were wearing life jackets, were able to reach a nearby reef from where they were rescued.
“These gentlemen clearly came prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario and this foresight most certainly saved their lives,” said Lt. J.R. Carrillo, Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter aircraft commander. “Being properly equipped with signal flares, life jackets and a communications device made them easy to locate and greatly facilitated everyone’s efforts to expedite their rescue. It was exhilarating to see everyone’s teamwork result in a successful outcome.”
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a call from the father of one of the boaters who reported the incident after his son contacted him by cell phone and notified him of the ongoing distress. Shortly thereafter, a second report was received from a 911 Emergency Operator, who notified a sighting of five red flares in the vicinity of Palomino Island.
Coast Guard watchstander proceeded to alert a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) marine unit and launch a Coast Guard MH-65D Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen to rescue the group.
The Puerto Rico Police marine unit arrived on scene and located the three boaters on the reef, however the sea state conditions did not allow for their safe removal. The Puerto Rico Police crew remained on scene monitoring the situation and vectored-in the Coast Guard helicopter to the boaters’ position. The helicopter crew deployed their rescue swimmer and safely hoisted the three men onboard. The men were transported to the Jose Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, where they were transferred in good health to awaiting Emergency Medical Service personnel.
There is a National Weather Service Advisory in effect advising of a northeasterly swell affecting local waters causing hazardous seas and surf conditions with a high risk of rip currents and life threatening currents that will create dangerous swimming conditions as well as hazardous marine conditions across the Atlantic waters and local passages.