Coast Guard rescues stranded boaters off El Salvador

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell rescued four boaters approximately 160 miles south of El Salvador Wednesday.

Costa Rican officials requested Coast Guard assistance Jan. 17 in locating the 40-foot Costa Rican-flagged Calipso IV, which was reportedly disabled and adrift approximately 40 miles off the coast of Nicaragua.

The following day two Joint Interagency Task Force-South maritime patrol aircrafts, already operating in the region on counter-drug patrols, attempted to locate the vessel. Neither aircraft was able to locate the vessel or any sign of the crew. Search planners suspended the search pending any new information about the missing vessel.

A Coast Guard C-130 aircrew, also on counter-drug patrol in the area, sighted the vessel 217 miles west of Nicaragua Wednesday and saw the crew signaling for help. They were able to drop a handheld radio to the Calipso IV. The crew reported they had been disabled without food or water for several days. The aircrew successfully dropped food and water to the Calipso IV crew to hold them over until further assistance arrived.

A team from the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, consisting of Seaman Joshua Robinson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Prine and Chief Warrant Officer James Taylor, prepare the F/V Calipso IV for towing in the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

A team from the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, consisting of Seaman Joshua Robinson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Prine and Chief Warrant Officer James Taylor, prepare the F/V Calipso IV for towing in the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

The Boutwell crew arrived approximately four hours later and brought the four crewmembers aboard. As the Boutwell was towing the Calipso IV the vessel listed to port and began to sink. The vessel could not be salvaged and was cut free and left adrift.

The Boutwell brought the survivors safely ashore to Acajutla, El Salvador Friday and returned to their counter-drug patrol.

Overall coordination of counter-drug surveillance in the Eastern Pacific ocean is coordinated by the JIATF-S, headquartered in Key West, Fla. U.S, law enforcement operations, and search and rescue missions in the region, are coordinated by the 11th Coast Guard District in Alameda.

“Effective international partnerships and strong convictions to upholding the long standing maritime traditions of protecting mariners at sea were instrumental to saving these four lives,” said Capt. Arthur Snyder, from the 11th Coast Guard District. “I’m particularly grateful for the response by the commercial vessel Uasc Doha who willingly diverted to assist with this case.”

Ships and aircraft patrolling in the Eastern Pacific are a valuable asset for this type of search and rescue operation.

“It was fascinating how quickly search and rescue became a priority,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Rafael Beltran, a JIATF-S watch officer. “We were capable, we were there, and we were able to save lives.”

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