Story by U.S. Coast Guard,
7th District Public Affairs
YANKEETOWN, FL - AIR STATION CLEARWATER RESCUES THREE MEN :
A Coast Guard HH-60 helicopter crew from air station Clearwater rescued
three fishermen early this morning in the vicinity of Yankeetown, Fla.
despite high winds and torrential rains.
The three residents of Deland, Fla. filed a float plan with a friend and
the vessel's owner before setting out yesterday. The boat's owner
contacted the Coast Guard at approximately 8:47 p.m. Monday, when he
realized his friends were overdue. Despite heavy thunderstorms, a
27-foot boat from Station Yankeetown was launched in tandem with the
helicopter from Air Station Clearwater. The Florida Wildlife and
Conservation Commission collaborated with Coast Guard crews in the
As weather conditions deteriorated in the Tampa Bay area, Alvin Gray,
65, Donald Yazell, 63, and Homer McMillen, 65, began having engine
trouble on their 18-foot boat. The trio began a five-hour effort
to walk and swim their boat into shore, somewhere north of Yankeetown.
"Petty Officer Rob Morgan was the rescue swimmer onboard who spotted a
fire as we were two-thirds done with our search and rescue flight," says
co-pilot Lt. Brian J. McLaughlin. As Lt. Matt Furlong commanded
the flight, the crew spotted a flare leading them directly toward the
stranded men. The rescue swimmer was lowered and confirmed these
were the men reported missing. An FWCC vessel collaborated with
the air crew on site, where winds exceeded 25 knots at times.
Working cooperatively, crews determined the safest method of rescue was
via helicopter hoist. There were no reported injuries.
The trio, who had three flares onboard, used two to start a fire on a
tiny island in the tangle of mangrove trees near the mouth of the
Wacasassa River. They saved the third flare to alert rescuers.
"That made all the difference," said McLaughlin.
"This is an incredible case," McLaughlin stated. He added the men
were rescued at approximately 4:30 this morning. "It's always a
great day when you safely rescue people." The fishermen also had
personal flotation devices and a Global Positioning System (GPS)
onboard. The Coast Guard strongly emphasizes the importance of
having safety equipment in good working order. Mariners are
encouraged to have the following equipment; a marine VHF radio, life
jackets and flares. The Coast Guard also encourages mariners to
have working Emergency Positioning Indicator Radio Beacons (EPIRB)
onboard, and most importantly enroll in a safe boating course. An
EPIRB is a small battery-powered transmitting device used in an
emergency when a marine radio is inoperable or out of range. EPIRB
signals are detected by satellites that pass overhead and assist the
Coast Guard in homing in on your location.
Having a properly equipped vessel is important. Preparing a Float
Plan is no less important. The Float Plan assisted the Coast Guard
in narrowing its search area, and successfully rescuing Gray, Yazell,
and McMillenKey who were stranded on a desolate shoreline.