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Diving In The Dark

Story by U.S. Coast Guard,
7th District Public Affairs

COCONUT GROVE, FL - Good Sam, Coast Guard rescue 8 after all-night search effort Search hampered by lack of float plan, inadequate equipment Eight people that were reported missing while on a dive trip last night were located on a stilt-house near Elliot Key at approximately 9:30 a.m. today.  The survivors were forced to swim to the stilt-house after their vessel capsized and were located by a Good Samaritan while they were sitting on the porch.

A Coast Guard rescue boat has been dispatched from Station Miami Beach to recover the survivors and transfer them back to shore at the Station.  The voyage began some time yesterday afternoon when the vessel departed from Matheson Hammock Park in Coconut Grove, Fla.  The vessel was apparently equipped with cell phones, life jackets, flares, a flashlight, food and water on board, but without a working VHF radio or a detailed float plan.

The Coast Guard received a report of the overdue vessel from a family member at 11:24 p.m. yesterday and immediately launched a massive search effort.  The Coast Guard's search included the following:

  • A surface search of Biscayne Bay with boats from Station Miami Beach.

  • An aerial search from John Pennekamp park to Biscayne Bay with an HU-25 Falcon jet from Air Station Maimi.

  • An aerial search from Miami to the Spiegel Rocks and the area around the Spiegel Grove dive site with an HU-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Miami.

  • A surface search of John Pennekamp park with boats from Station Islamorada.

  • A Coast Guard HC-130 Airplane searched the Florida Straits for any signs of the missing boaters.

The Coast Guard also issued urgent marine information broadcasts on VHF-FM radio Ch. 16 asking all boaters to report any signs of the missing people to their nearest Coast Guard unit.

"These boaters were very fortunate to have been found safe and sound and we are relieved by this fact and greatly appreciate the assistance of the Good Samaritan who reported them," said Capt. Everett Rollins, chief of search and rescue for the Seventh Coast Guard District.  "Two unnecessary complications for our search efforts were the lack of detailed information on the vessel and its intended trip, as well as the apparent lack of a working marine radio.  These are critical items to helping the Coast Guard develop the best search areas possible, significantly improving a distressed boaters chances of survival."

Editor's Note: The Coast Guard reminds boaters to remain vigilant when on the water and strongly suggest having charts, a global positioning device and reliable means of communication on board.  VHF radios are preferable to cell phones as cell phones can be unreliable due to low batteries and holes in coverage areas.  In the event of distress at sea, a float plan filed with a responsible friend or family member on shore is crucial to helping the Coast Guard respond in a timely manner.

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