Coast Guard cutter responds to distressed fishing vessel

NEWPORT, R.I. – A Newport-based Coast Guard Cutter responded to a distressed fishing vessel near the Dry Tortugas in Florida Tuesday morning.

The master of the fishing vessel Lou hailed the Coast Guard about 7 a.m., to report that his ship was damaged and taking on water. Upon notification, the Coast Guard Cutter Willow immediately set out for the vessels last reported position.

Shortly after making their distress call, the crew of the 75-foot shrimp boat abandoned ship. They took an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon and climbed into the ships life raft. Minutes later, a nearby fishing vessel recovered them.

The Willow made full speed through eight to 12-foot swells and arrived on scene at 9:15 a.m., to find the battered vessel adrift near shoal water. With heavy seas and winds nearing 30 knots, the vessel was listing heavily and being set onto the reef.

A Coast Guard helicopter was deployed to survey the scene from above. During their overflight, the helicopter crew confirmed that the vessel had slipped below the surface and broken up about six miles north of Fort Jefferson National Park in the Dry Tortugas.

“These men are fortunate to have had a Good Samaritan nearby who could help them out,” said Lt. Cmdr. Owen Gibbons, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Willow. “This just emphasizes the importance of keeping safety equipment on board and up to date.”

The Willow is deployed to the south Atlantic for law enforcement operations.

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