Coast Guard Rescues 4 Despite Duplicate Distress Calls Confustion

MIAMI – A Coast Guard HH-65 helicopter aircrew from Air Station Miami rescued four South Florida boaters at 9:26 p.m. after their vessel capsized 11 miles southeast of Elliott Key, Fla.

Gladys Hidalgo, 46, Roberto Contrera, 49, Yanay Contrera, 22, all residents of Homestead, Fla., and Lester Rodriquez, 23, a resident of Opa Locka, Fla., used cell phones to call several family members for help after their 25-foot boat capsized around 8 p.m. but never called the Coast Guard or 911 directly.

The Coast Guard received several conflicting reports of boaters in distress during the same time. Station Islamorada, Fla., received the first call at 8:05 p.m. through a 911 relay of an overturned vessel with four people near Boca Chita Lighthouse which is about 9 miles from Convoy Point, Fla.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units reported at 8:25 p.m. to Coast Guard Sector Miami search and rescue (SAR) coordinators that Yanay’s uncle reported five people were on top of a 25-foot overturned vessel. Three minutes later another report of five people on a vessel was reported but no location was given. The uncle of Rodriguez called the Coast Guard at 8:37 p.m. and reported a 23-foot boat capsized with six to seven people in the water near Turkey Point which was 15 miles away from the rescue. Gladys’s daughter called Coast Guard Station Miami Beach at 8:38 p.m. and reported four people in the water near Whistle Buoy #4 between Pacific Light and Carysfort Reef Light.

Coast Guard units in Key West, Fla., were also involved in the search when someone reported four to five people were on a capsized vessel near Mile Marker 24 in Summerland Key, Fla. Eventually the SAR coordinators were able to determine that all these calls correlated to the one case off Elliott Key.

Gladys was finally able to talk directly to the SAR coordinators in Miami and helped guide the Coast Guard helicopter to their location. The four were hoisted safely into the helicopter and taken to Air Station Miami in Opa Locka. The four were released in good health to family members and all four passengers were wearing their lifejackets.

“These people did some things right when thing went wrong including wearing their lifejackets,” said Lt. j.g. Angel Rodriguez, public affairs officer at Coast Guard Sector Miami. “What they didn’t do right was radio the Coast Guard using a VHF radio or call 911 directly. The faster we get good information on a case, the faster we can get help on scene. In this case we were able to deconflict information but had we not heard from the boaters themselves, help could have reached them much later.”

Following the rescue of the four boaters by the helicopter crew, Coast Guard Station Key West crews rescued a 76 year-old man and his friend around 3:15 a.m. Tuesday after a dingy capsized close to Fleming Key in Key West. A Good Samaritan heard a call for help around 2:20 a.m. and was able to locate one person. The Coast Guard crew arrived on scene and located the other man. Both were taken to shore were local EMS were waiting. Both men were released.

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