Coast Guard rescues 2 after sailboat grounds near Little Egg Inlet

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, stands with two survivors May 6, 2022, after the aircrew rescued the couple. The two people were aboard a 33-foot sailing vessel when it grounded and overturned in heavy weather offshore from Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey. (U.S. Coast Guard photo.)

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, stands with two survivors May 6, 2022, after the aircrew rescued the couple. (U.S. Coast Guard photo.)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Coast Guard rescued two people Friday night after their 33-foot sailing vessel, Free Bird, grounded and overturned near Little Egg Inlet.

A person aboard Free Bird used a VHF-FM marine radio Friday at about 8 p.m. to hail Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay watchstanders and report that they grounded in shoals and began heeling over while heading south toward Atlantic City.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, along with rescue boat crews from Coast Guard Stations Atlantic City and Barnegat Light, responded to the call for help.

When Coast Guard responders arrived on the scene, they quickly located the Free Bird hard aground and on its side in breaking surf with both people aboard. Due to the shallow waters surrounding the vessel, the aircrew initiated hoisting the people.

“With high winds, driving rain and thunderstorms in the area, our aircrew worked to quickly lower the rescue swimmer to help the couple,” said Lt. Humberto Hernandez, a pilot who flew on the rescue. “Our swimmer was able to walk in the shallow breaking surf to the Free Bird and assist the people away from the vessel to facilitate a safer hosting situation, away from the overturned vessel’s mast.”

With each survivor safely hoisted into the aircraft, they returned to the air station and transferred to awaiting emergency medical personnel. Both people are reportedly in good condition and will coordinate salvage plans for their vessel.

The Coast Guard reminds all mariners that having reliable communication aboard your vessel can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. A VHF-FM marine radio is the best way to alert the Coast Guard to an emergency, especially on the water, where cell phone connectivity and weather are often unpredictable.

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