Coast Guard, Puerto Rico emergency responders rescue 3 missing watercraft riders

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter located and hoisted two of three missing watercraft riders to safety from the rocks on Cabo Mala Pascua, Maunabo, Puerto Rico, Monday afternoon.

The woman and 14-year old girl were transported by the crew of the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter to the Humacao Airport and transferred to awaiting EMS personnel for further transport to the Ryder Memorial Hospital in Humacao to receive further medical care.

The third watercraft rider was also able to swim to the rocks on Cabo Mala Pascua Monday morning, where she was assisted by Puerto Rico State Emergency Management rescue crews from the Municipality of Maunabo and Puerto Rico Police.

The watercraft riders had gone missing Sunday afternoon while transiting aboard a personal watercraft from Punta Arenas, Vieques to Naguabo, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard controllers in the Sector San Juan Joint Rescue Sub Center received a telephone call from a 911 operator at 7:25 p.m. Sunday who initially reported the incident. The reporting source stated that the missing persons where returning to Naguabo from a family day in Punta Arenas, Vieques, and that they had departed to Naguabo at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, seven minutes ahead of two other personal watercrafts. Upon arriving at Naguabo, the persons aboard the two other personal watercrafts found no signs of the three missing persons.

The three missing watercraft riders were wearing life jackets and had no other emergency or signaling device equipment aboard their watercraft.

Since the search began Sunday, Coast Guard rescue crews conducted seven air and surface searches, spanning approximately 2,000 square nautical miles with HH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen, a 33-foot response boat from Boat Station San Juan, an Air Station Miami HU-25 Falcon Jet deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a Coast Guard Auxiliary fixed-wing aircraft. Puerto Rico State Emergency Management Agency, Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces For Rapid Action and Municipal authorities in the east coast of Puerto Rico and Vieques were also involved in the search efforts.

Personal watercraft operators are considered boaters too. Here are a few safety tips to remember before you head out on a personal watercraft:

1. Stay with your boat or personal watercraft if your vessel capsizes and you can’t make it to shore. Look around for help if a boat is close enough and wave your arms to let them know you need help. Keep calm, look and listen and remember to stay with your boat.

2. Wear protective clothing. Severe internal injuries can occur if water is forced into body cavities as a result of falling into the water or being near a jet thrust nozzle.

3. Carry and check your safety gear to be sure it works. Always file a float plan with a friend or a marina, remember to wear your lifejacket and have flares or other signaling devices on board.

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