Coast Guard and sheriffs department locate overdue boaters

A Coast Guard HC-144 aircraft

HC-144 USCG file photo

NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard and the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Department located three people clinging to a capsized 17-foot skiff, Monday, about two miles southeast of the Tchefuncte River in Lake Pontchartrain.

At about 12:45 a.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a call from the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Department reporting that three people aboard a 17-foot Carolina skiff were overdue. The wife of the skiff’s operator called the sheriffs to report that her husband and two other people went fishing along the east side of the Causeway bridge and were expected to return to the Mandeville Harbor Marina at approximately 9 p.m., Sunday, but had not returned as scheduled.

An MH-65C helicopter and crew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and a 45-foot response boat and crew from Coast Guard Station New Orleans searched along the north and south shore of the river.

At approximately 6:30 a.m., an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and crew from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., located the three fishermen clinging to the hull of the capsized skiff. All three were not wearing life jackets.

The HC-144 crew vectored the location of the skiff to a sheriff’s boatcrew searching in the area. The sheriffs recovered the three and brought them to shore where they were met by awaiting emergency medical services personnel.

Their medical conditions are unknown.

“With the combination of night vision goggles and the Forward-Looking Infrared Radar camera, we were able to see the capsized vessel with the three people clinging to it,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Frye, HC-144 pilot. “We actually found them before we initiated our search pattern.”

The Coast Guard recommends boaters to always wear their life jackets while on the water. There is little time, if any, to don a life jacket when an accident occurs. Also, the Coast Guard reminds everyone to file a float plan before they recreate on the water. A float plan is simply telling someone where you are going and when you will return. This information is crucial to emergency responders when responding to reports of overdue boaters.

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