Coast Guard concludes search following rescue of overdue boater in Puerto Rico

Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter file photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall

Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter file photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodall

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police concluded their search for an overdue boater, who was found stranded and rescued by the crew of a Puerto Rico Police marine unit Thursday morning on “Cayo Collado” in Lajas, Puerto Rico.

Rescued is Francisco Palomo, 55, who reportedly rented a Caribbean skiff Wednesday morning at the waterfront of La Parguera, in Lajas, to go fishing at nearby cays. The man did not return from his fishing trip by 5:30 p.m. when he was expected.

“This man is very fortunate to have been rescued,” said Capt. Jose Diaz, Sector San Juan acting commander. “We thank and commend the efforts of all the rescue units who responded in this case and the crew of the Puerto Rico Police marine unit who found, recovered and delivered them man safely to his family. With the Columbus Day holiday weekend approaching, we remind boaters that preparation is the most important part of any safe boating trip. Wearing a life jacket, having signaling equipment and leaving a float plan with a responsible person, letting them know where you are going and when you plan to return, could make all the difference and save rescue crews critical time and assets when planning to search for an overdue or distress situation.”

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a report of the overdue boater Wednesday night from a Puerto Rico Police Joint Force of Rapid Action (F.U.R.A.) agent from the Guanica F.U.R.A. Boat Station. Watchstanders directed the launch of a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter to search alongside the multiple Puerto Rico police marine units that were actively searching.

Coast Guard watchstanders received a report at 2 a.m. Thursday from a F.U.R.A. agent, who informed one of their marine units had located the skiff with three lifejackets aboard and no signs of Palomo, approximately one nautical mile south of the Cabo Rojo lighthouse. At approximately 6:30 a.m. Thursday, a Puerto Rico Police marine unit located and safely recovered the man who was stranded on “Cayo Collado.”

The man later informed Coast Guard watchstanders that a rogue wave knocked him from the skiff into the water while the boat kept traveling, and that he managed to swim to “Cayo Collado.” He also informed seeing the Coast Guard helicopter searching during the night, but he had no means to signal the aircraft for assistance.

Before you leave the dock, review these boating safety tips:

Always wear a life jacket. Ensure there are enough life jackets for every person on the boat and children under 12-years-old should wear one when out on the open deck.

Boat sober. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.

Have a float plan. A float plan should be given to a friend or family member and includes where you are going, when you will be back, a description of your boat, and other passengers. If you change plans mid-voyage, let someone know.

Have a marine radio. A VHF-FM radio set to channel 16 is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area or a dead battery.

Ask the Captain. Before you get underway on a charter, or even pay for the trip, ask the captain to see their merchant mariner credentials.

Check the weather. Know the weather limitations of the boat. Check the weather for storms, tides, currents and winds.

Dive Safely. Always use a dive flag with swimmers in the water. Use GPS tracking for currents and drift.

Have an EPIRB. Always go out with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. An EPIRB is a device that is designed to transmit a distress signal to emergency responders through a satellite system.

Be COVID-19 safe. The National Safe Boating Council offers boaters tips for social distancing including: maintaining a safe distance while at the fuel dock, and washing your hands frequently or using a hand sanitizer after touching a marina gate or fuel pump.

Download the free Coast Guard app. Focusing on recreational boating, the app has a float plan function, the ability to check weather reports from the nearest NOAA buoys, a function for calling for assistance when in distress and more. It is currently available for free on iOS and Android devices.

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