Coast Guard rescues 5 men from zodiac boat off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico

Coast Guard helicopter rescue crews from Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, combined efforts with a Puerto Rico Police marine unit and rescued five men from a 24-foot zodiac boat that was taking on water off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico, Oct. 9, 2015. All five boaters were safely removed from the distressed vessel with the assistance of the Coast Guard rescue swimmer and transferred to the police marine unit that transported the men from the uninhabited natural reserve to the main island of Puerto Rico. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Coast Guard helicopter rescue crews from Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, combined efforts with a Puerto Rico Police marine unit and rescued five men from a 24-foot zodiac boat that was taking on water off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico, Oct. 9, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A helicopter rescue crew from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen combined efforts with the crew of a Puerto Rico Police marine unit Friday and rescued five men from a 24-foot zodiac boat that was taking on water off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico.

The rescued men are U.S. citizens and reported to be employees of Clean Ocean Initiative, Inc., who were collecting scientific data in the area to remove decommissioned underwater telephone cables.

Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a MAYDAY distress call on VHF – Channel 16 from the zodiac boat Friday morning reporting the distress. A Coast Guard MH-65D rescue helicopters from Air Station Borinquen launched to deliver rescue assistance, while a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA) marine unit also responded.

The Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene and deployed their rescue swimmer who assisted the boaters into the water and swam them away from the rocks, one at a time, to the Puerto Rico Police marine unit approximately 100 yards out.  The rescue swimmer successfully transferred all five men, who were transported by the police marine unit to the Black Eagle boat ramp in Rincón, Puerto Rico.

“The gentlemen we helped today were fortunate they had an operable marine VHF radio and contacted the Coast Guard when they did,” said Lt. Matthew Hardgrove, Air Station Borinquen MH-65D pilot. “Their vessel started taking on water faster than they could bail it out and we were glad to provide assistance alongside FURA. We are always ready and willing to assist mariners in distress and this is another example of why it is important to make sure you have all of the required safety equipment onboard your vessel. And just like today, do not hesitate to request assistance before your situation becomes worse.”

Desecho Island is an uninhabited natural reserve, approximately 13 miles off the west coast of (Punta Higuero) in the main island of Puerto Rico, while VHF Channel 16 is the international calling and distress frequency.

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