Coast Guard Rescues 4 From Life Raft in the Gulf of Mexico

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Coast Guard rescued four fishermen from a life raft at about 7:40 a.m. Friday after their 32-foot commercial-fishing vessel began taking on water and sunk 32-nautical miles west of Clearwater, Fla.

Capt. Darren Stanwood, 44, of Orlando, Fla., Tom Hunter, 46, of Zephyrhills, Fla., Dennis Grimm, 53, of Madeira Beach, Fla., and Lisa Mercer, 42, of Hudson, Fla., were aboard the Lady Juanita, homeported in Madeira Beach, when the crew noticed that the vessel was riding low in the water. A crewmember opened a forward compartment and saw that it was flooded. Four-foot waves began crashing over the bow of the vessel, and it quickly began taking on water. Stanwood called Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Fla., at 6:26 a.m., Friday, on VHF channel 16 and reported the vessel’s approximate coordinates and nature of distress.

Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watchstanders used the Rescue 21 system to confirm the vessel’s position and launched an HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater at 6:29 a.m. to assist the distressed fishermen.

At 6:33 a.m., the fishermen abandoned ship and entered a life raft before the vessel capsized and sunk. The Coast Guard helicopter located them at 7:11 a.m. and began hoisting the fishermen at 7:13 a.m. The rescue crew completed hoisting all four people at about 7:40 a.m. and brought the survivors to Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater in good health with no reported injuries.

“The fact that the Lady Juanita crewmembers kept the proper life-saving equipment onboard the vessel was instrumental in saving their lives,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Heath Montembeault, an operations controller at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “They used a marine radio, life jackets and a life raft, and gave us quick, clear and concise information that helped us coordinate their rescue. In addition, with the use of our Rescue 21 system, we were able to obtain an accurate position of the vessel and rescue them very quickly,” added Montembeault.

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