Coast Guard rescues overdue watercraft rider in open sea off Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter located and rescued an overdue watercraft rider Tuesday morning, approximately 12 nautical miles northwest of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The 33-year old man was transported by the crew of the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter to the Cyril E. King Airport in Saint Thomas, where he was transferred to awaiting Emergency Medical Services personnel.

The watercraft rider reportedly had gone missing at approximately 6p.m. Monday afternoon after his personal craft became disabled and adrift while transiting with two other friends, each aboard their own personal watercraft, from Megan Bay to Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The two other personal watercraft riders were able to make it safely to shore and reported to U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources personnel that their friend was still missing.

Coast Guard controllers in the Sector San Juan Joint Rescue Sub Center received a telephone call from a U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources officer who reported the incident to the Coast Guard.

The overdue watercraft rider was wearing a life jacket when he was rescued.

Since the search began Tuesday morning, Coast Guard rescue crews conducted air and surface searches, with and HH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen, a 25-foot response boat from Coast Guard Boat Forces in Saint Thomas and the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark.

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. 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 a reflective lifejacket and have flares or other signaling devices on board, it facilitates being detected at night.
  3. Staying together when traveling in a group could save a life and facilitate rescue operations.
  4. 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.

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