Coast Guard rescues personal watercraft operator in Chincoteague Bay

5th Coast Guard District NewsCHINCOTEAGUE, Va. — Coast Guard crews from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and Station Chincoteague rescued a personal watercraft operator, in Chincoteague Bay, Wednesday morning.

Coast Guard watchstanders at Station Chincoteague received notification at approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday from a friend stating that Thomas Baty was overdue and possibly out of gas.

Baty had gone out on his personnel watercraft Tuesday on a trip between Oyster Bay to Wild Cat Point when he had run out of fuel and was left adrift throughout the night.

“I was riding around with friends and decided to go on my own,” said Baty. “My glasses had salt buildup, and I had confused the RPM gauge with the fuel gauge.”

Coast Guard Station Chincoteague launched a Special Purpose Craft – Shallow Water boat crew who searched the bay for nearly three hours before an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the air station arrived on scene and spotted Baty. Virginia Marine Police were also searching for Baty.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Jacobs, Chincoteague’s duty coxswain for the search, called Baty’s cell phone and was able to hear from Baty that he was not injured but was out of gas somewhere in Chincoteague Bay.

“Baty didn’t know where he was,” said Jacobs. “His cell phone died before I could ask any further questions.”

After a combined search of nearly four hours, the Jayhawk crew located Baty and notified the rescue boat crew of his location. Because of the size of the search area, the boat crew was approximately 20 minutes from Baty’s location. While waiting the helicopter crew lowered a rescue swimmer to check on Baty’s health and to provide him with a life jacket.

The boat crew arrived on scene at approximately 1 a.m., took Baty aboard and towed the personal watercraft to Town Dock in Chincoteague arriving nearly three and a half hours later.

“The Coast Guard recommends that mariners file a float plan with friends or family and tell them where they are going and when they will be back,” said Lt. Jack Smith of Sector Hampton Roads. “This allows family to call first responders at the first sign of trouble. Every minute counts when it comes to search and rescue.”

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