Coast Guard works with cruise ship and Good Samaritan to rescue 6

Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 helicopter

USCG File Photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews, a Good Samaritan vessel and the crew of the cruise ship Zenith rescued six men Monday during a search and rescue case involving three vessels in waters between St. Thomas and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

One boater was hoisted by the crew of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from one of the vessels, two boaters were assisted by a Good Samaritan vessel, and the three remaining boaters were rescued by the crew of the Zenith.

Watchtanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a call at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday from  Coast Guard Sector Miami, reporting a possible distress involving three vessels that were transiting from St. Thomas to St. Croix. One of the vessels reportedly had become disabled, while the other two vessels had run out of gas.

Coast Guard watchstanders proceeded to launch a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to locate the vessels and rescue any boaters in distress. Watchstanders also issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast transmission to vessels in the area that could render assistance.

Upon arriving on scene with one of the vessels in distress, the crew of the Coast Guard helicopter lowered a Coast Guard rescue swimmer and established verbal communications with the boaters. The boaters reported they had three people on board and that one of them was experiencing symptoms of severe sea sickness. They also reported that one of the three boats had capsized and that the person from the capsized vessel had been recovered and was safely onboard. The crew of the Coast Guard helicopter proceeded to hoist the boater in medical distress onboard the aircraft. The Coast Guard helicopter transported the patient to St. Thomas, were he declined to receive medical treatment from Emergency Medical Service personnel. A Good Samaritan vessel that arrived on scene took the disabled vessel in tow and towed the vessel, with the two boaters onboard, to St. Thomas.

Meanwhile, the cruise ship Zenith, which had diverted to assist in response to the Urgent Marine Information Broadcast, located and recovered the three remaining boaters from the third vessel in distress. The three rescued boaters remained aboard the Zenith as the cruise ship continued its transit to the island of St. Maarten.

“This case highlights the importance of having a safe boating plan and a VHF-marine radio to communicate a distress,” said Lt. Roberto Concepción, Sector San Juan command duty officer. “The fact that someone was able to promptly alert the Coast Guard in this case allowed us to coordinate and execute a successful rescue.”

Boating Safety Tips:

Boaters are reminded to equip their vessels with safety equipment, be mindful of state boating laws, and be courteous to fellow boaters while operating on the water.

There should be a personal flotation device on the vessel for each person, sized accordingly.

Boaters should have flares and are encouraged to have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) with 406 MHz capabilities to enable a faster response by the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.

Boaters should have an operational marine VHF radio on their boat in order to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16, in the event an emergency. The Coast Guard reminds radio operators that VHF channel 16 is an emergency channel and that improper transmission on channel 16 not only hampers Coast Guard response, but is punishable under federal law.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member on land, with an approximate time of return and location to which you will be heading. It is also recommended that you regularly check in with those who are aware of your plan, especially if your plan should change.

Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water.

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