Coast Guard rescues three boaters, dog in the Florida Keys

ISLAMORADA, Fla. — The U.S. Coast Guard rescued three boaters and their dog Friday after their boat capsized near Alligator Reef Light, approximately 4 miles southeast of Lower Matecumbe Key, Fla.

Coast Guard search-and-rescue coordinators at Sector Key West, Fla. received a distress call at 12:20 p.m. over VHF channel 16 from the distressed boaters who said they were sinking and needed help. The Coast Guard did not receive a position from the distressed boat nor any further radio calls.

The Coast Guard responded immediately by issuing an Urgent Marine Radio Information Broadcast over VHF channel 16, requesting the help of other boaters in the area for information on the distressed boater. A good Samaritan responded to the broadcast and informed the Coast Guard that a 54-foot recreational boat with three people and one dog on board had capsized near Alligator Reef Light.

Coast Guard Station Islamorada immediately responded by launching a rescue boat crew. Shortly after the boat launched, one of the distressed boaters contacted the Coast Guard via his cellular phone. The distressed boater informed the Coast Guard that his boat had capsized, sending himself, two other individuals and one dog into the water. In addition, he stated that they were able to don their life jackets and were clinging to a floating cooler.

Coast Guard search-and-rescue coordinators at Sector Key West were able to obtain the exact GPS position of the distressed boaters cellular phone transmission from the cellular phone service provider. The rescue boat crew from Station Islamorada arrived on scene at 1:10 p.m. and located the distressed boaters and their canine companion. The three and their dog were brought back into Caloosa Cove Resort on Lower Matecumbe Key.

The owner of the capsized boat hired commercial salvage to recover the boat.

“We are pleased to have located and rescued these boaters and their canine,” said Capt. Pat DeQuattro, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West. “The boater did two things right that played a key part in saving themselves; they used their VHF radio to relay their distress, and they were able to locate and put on their life jackets. In this case we used their cell phone information to establish their position, and fortunately find them drifting with their boat’s cooler. A capsized boat is a much larger object than just people in the water, and therefore more easily detectable by search-and-rescue responders. If at all possible, people in distress should stay with their capsized boat.”

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