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AMVER system speeds sailor’s rescue

An EPIRB, a strobe light and a flare led to the recent rescue of a French sailor 1,381 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, but it was the AMVER system that made it possible in less than six hours.

The man was sailing from the Canary Islands to Guadeloupe when his vessel started to take on water in 25- to 30-mph winds and 10-foot waves. The sailor abandoned the boat and got into a life raft, according to the Coast Guard.

Dim lights

Click play to see images from the rescue and hear the call between the Coast Guard and the captain of the Sebring Express.

The Coast Guard Fifth District in Portsmouth, Va., picked up an EPIRB signal from the sailing vessel, Nacouda, at 2:51 p.m. Feb. 3 and used AMVER - the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System - to direct the Sebring Express, a Filipino-flagged vessel, to the site of the distress signal.

As the 590-foot cargo ship approached, the crew spotted a strobe light, then a flare, and lastly the sailor in his raft. He was rescued at 8:47 p.m.

"This man's EPIRB saved his life," says Rear Adm. Dean Lee, the Coast Guard district commander.

"This case demonstrates there are few places we can't find an AMVER ship to rescue you," says Benjamin Strong, AMVER director of maritime relations.

The crew of the Sebring Express continued to its original destination of Jacksonville, Fla., where the Coast Guard awarded the ship a certificate of appreciation and a ship's pennant. The sailor was in good health.

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