Coast Guard, local agencies search for missing boater near Smithfield, VA

USCG file photo

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Coast Guard and local rescue responders are searching for a missing male who entered the water after the sailboat he was on capsized with 9 others aboard at approximately midnight Thursday in the James River near Smithfield, Va.

Five of the boaters swam ashore, and four were rescued by responders at the scene.

The operator of the tug Robert Burton reported to Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads watchstanders at 3:43 a.m. that they had collided with what appeared to be an abandoned, unlit sailboat in the James River Channel approximately 6 miles north of the James River Bridge. Subsequently, the Coast Guard responded to a 911 call from one of the people that swam to shore after the 22-foot sailboat capsized. The person stated that some of the passengers swam ashore, their sailboat was adrift and several members remained unaccounted for.

Crews responded with the Coast Guard Cutter Shearwater, the Coast Guard Cutter Chock, a 25-foot Response Boat – Small and a 41-foot Utility Boat from Station Portsmouth, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City as well as crews from local agencies including Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Newport News Fire and Police Departments, Isle of Wight Department of Emergency Response, Suffolk Police Department, Hampton Fire Department, Norfolk Police and Fire Departments, Smithfield Police Department, Virginia Beach Fire Department and the Chesapeake Police Department.

“The Coast Guard recently conducted a joint agency Search and Rescue Forum in March to inform and educate response agencies on what to expect when involved in search and rescue missions with Coast Guard boats and helicopters,” said Lt. j.g. Kristen Jaekel of Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City. “The success of the forum resulted in flawless communications to rapidly direct the boats to the people in the water ultimately leading to their rescue.”

The boaters were taken to the Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, Va.

The cause of the incident is under investigation by Virginia Marine Police.

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