HOUSTON — Three men stranded aboard a disabled boat were found and towed back into port after signaling an oil rig, 187 miles southeast of Houston, Sunday.
Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston watchstanders received the initial report, at 8 p.m., Saturday, from the wife of Mark Jones that her husband and two other men had taken their 30-foot boat and hadn’t returned at the agreed upon time. While she didn’t know exactly where the men had gone, she provided the watchstanders with a general area to search.
Sector Houston-Galveston launched Coast Guard crews aboard an HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft from Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Houston and a 45-foot Response Boat — Medium from Station Galveston.
The three men aboard the disabled vessel signaled the crew of a nearby oil rig using flares and a flashlight. The oil rig crew reported this to Sector Houston-Galveston watchstanders who used the new information to better focus the rescue crews.
“We didn’t have much to go on in the beginning,” said Lt. Julio Gonzalez, command duty officer for Sector Houston-Galveston. “Around 11:20 p.m., is when the rig spotted the flare and really narrowed down the search for us.”
According to Gonzalez, the initial search area was 3,672 square miles, approximately half the size of the state of New Jersey. After receiving the report of flares from the crew of the oil rig, the search area shrank to approximately four square miles.
The Coast Guard urges all boaters to carry flares, flashlights or some form of signaling device whenever they go out on the water. Boaters are also urged to organize a float plan, a detailed itinerary that a boater can leave with friends or family in case of an emergency. For more information on safe boating go to uscgboating.org.