Coast Guard Rescues Three Men After Boat Overturns

TIERRA VERDE, Fla., – Rescue crews from Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg, Fla., and Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., rescued three men at about 10:45 a.m., Wednesday, after their 17-foot boat overturned near Egmont Key, in Tierra Verde.

Bart Hauke, 27, of Largo, Fla., Eric Houtz, 49, of Clearwater, and Robert Keliher, 46, of Bellaire, Fla., were rescued after watchstanders from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, in Clearwater, Fla., received a call from Hauke at 10:05 a.m., Wednesday, reporting that his boat was capsizing near Fort Desoto Park, Fla., with three men aboard. The cellular call was dropped before Coast Guard watchstanders could get more information from Hauke.

Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg immediately launched a 25-foot response-boat crew from Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg and diverted an HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.

The helicopter crew arrived onscene at 10:34 a.m., and discovered the overturned boat with the three men clinging to a nearby range tower about one half-mile north of Egmont Key. The crew lowered a VHF marine radio to the men, verified that they made the original distress call and maintained radio communication until the Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg rescue crew arrived onscene at 10:43 a.m. The Station St. Petersburg rescue crew brought the three men aboard and took them to an awaiting EMS at the Fort Desoto boat ramp.

“The actions our crews took today was instrumental in the quick rescue of these three men,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Constance Saint John, a search-and-rescue coordinator at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “We encourage all boaters to always carry a working VHF marine radio onboard their vessel at all times. Cell phones are often unreliable, which was definitely true in this case, and many times there is no coverage offshore.”

Marine units from the Pinellas County Sherriffs Office, Eckerd SAR (Search-and-Rescue) and Fort Desoto Park Rangers also assisted in the rescue.

The water temperature was 85 degrees, with two- to four-foot seas and 25-knot winds.

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