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Coast Guard rescuers keep busy

Already this week Coast Guard crews have rescued six people aboard a 20-foot powerboat sinking 30 miles offshore; and five men who climbed aboard an unmanned platform in the Gulf of Mexico when their pleasure boat starting taking on water.

A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Ponce De Leon Inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, rescued 6 people who were aboard a boat that was in danger of sinking 30 miles east of Ponce Inlet on Tuesday.

At 4:15 p.m. a skipper used a VHF-FM marine radio to broadcast a mayday call, reporting the 20-foot Grady White recreational boat he was aboard with five other people was flooding.

Watchstanders in the Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville command center responded to the call and immediately directed a boatcrew from Station Ponce De Leon Inlet that was already underway to assist. A good Samaritan aboard the pleasure craft Coconut, which was nearby too, overheard the radio call and also responded.

Additionally, Moody activated the vessel’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which gave responders his precise location.

“When we received the initial radio distress call, the man didn’t provide his full GPS coordinates, but when he activated his vessel’s EPIRB we received his precise position,” said Chief Petty Officer Sandy Ketchen, Sector Jacksonville command duty officer. “Without the full position provided by the EPIRB, our boatcrew would have been searching a 3,600-square mile area to find the vessel.”

A day earlier, five men were rescued Monday from an unmanned platform about 40 miles southeast of the Texas/Louisiana border, after their fishing boat began taking on water.

The men made it to the unmanned platform and one man was able to call the Coast Guard for help at about 10:45 a.m. Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston watchstanders sent a 45-foot response boat and crew from Coast Guard Station Sabine Pass, but the weather conditions didn’t allow for them to safely get the men aboard from the rig.

In order to recover the men before potentially severe weather moved in, two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters were sent from Coast Guard Air Station Houston to get the men to safety.

“They were out there in the elements and had no way of getting back. They didn’t have any food and a limited amount of hydration,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Maddox, one of the watchstanders working the case. “It was important to get the individuals off the rig because the approaching front would have put them in immediate danger.”

The boat was mostly submerged when Coast Guard crews arrived, but was recovered later by a passing tug.