Five boaters rescued in the Mona Passage

The crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, a Good Samaritan vessel and the crew of a Puerto Rico Police maritime unit rescued five men the afternoon of April 29, 2017, who were forced to abandon the 38-foot recreational vessel Botica that was taking on water and sank in the Mona Passage, approximately 18 nautical miles west of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Three boaters were rescued by the crew of the Coast Guard helicopter, while the two remaining boaters were rescued by the motor vessel Cape Horn, a Good Samaritan vessel that arrived on scene to provide assistance. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, a Good Samaritan vessel and the crew of a Puerto Rico Police maritime unit rescued five men the afternoon of April 29, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard rescue crews, a Good Samaritan vessel and the crew of a Puerto Rico Police maritime unit rescued five men Saturday afternoon, who were forced to abandon the 38-foot recreational vessel Botica in the Mona Passage, approximately 18 nautical miles west of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico.

Three boaters were rescued by the crew of a  Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, while two other boaters were rescued by the motor vessel Cape Horn, a Good Samaritan vessel that arrived on scene to provide assistance.

Watchtanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a MAYDAY call at approximately 11:45 a.m. Saturday, via a VHF radio transmission on channel 16, stating the vessel had taken over three feet of water and that water continued to enter the vessel at an uncontrolled rate. The radio transmission also relayed that the five passengers onboard had donned their life jackets and were abandoning the vessel and that the vessel was not carrying a life raft. Following the final radio transmission, watchstanders received a 406Mhz Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon distress signal from the Optica.

The Coast Guard proceeded to launch an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla to locate and rescue the boaters. Watchstanders proceeded to issue an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to vessels in the area that could render assistance and they alerted the Puerto Rico Police that responded to the case with a Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit.

The Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived on scene and located the five boaters in the water. The Coast Guard aircrew deployed their rescue swimmer and hoisted three of the boaters on board before returning and transporting them to Air Station Borinquen. Meanwhile, the rescue swimmer remained on scene with the two other boaters as the motor vessel Cape Horn was arriving on scene. The crew of the Cape Horn recovered the two boaters and Coast Guard rescue swimmer and transferred them to the Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit that arrived on scene shortly thereafter. The Coast Guard helicopter returned and rendezvoused with the Puerto Rico Police marine unit to recover their rescue swimmer.

All five boaters were returned safely to shore and were seen and released by Emergency Medical Service personnel, after the boaters were reported to not have sustained any injuries and not requiring any further medical attention.

“These gentlemen did the right thing by having the proper equipment for their trip offshore and calling the Coast Guard early once their situation deteriorated,” said Lt. James Cepa, Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircraft commander. “Their life jackets, flares, and functioning EPIRB made this swift rescue successful”.

Boating Safety Tips:

Boaters are reminded to equip their vessels with safety equipment, be mindful of state boating laws, and be courteous to fellow boaters while operating on the water.

There should be a personal flotation device on the vessel for each person, sized accordingly.

Boaters should have flares and are encouraged to have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) with 406 MHz capabilities to enable a faster response by the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.

Boaters should have an operational marine VHF radio on their boat in order to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16, in the event an emergency. The Coast Guard reminds radio operators that VHF channel 16 is an emergency channel and that improper transmission on channel 16 not only hampers Coast Guard response, but is punishable under federal law.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member on land, with an approximate time of return and location to which you will be heading. It is also recommended that you regularly check in with those who are aware of your plan, especially if your plan should change.

Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water.

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