Two brothers-in-law and five children were involved in a harrowing rescue as their disabled boat drifted toward shoal water and breaking surf in Florida’s Nassau Sound.
The family members contacted watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville on the afternoon of Nov. 30, saying that the engine on their 58-foot shrimp trawler, Shoal Bandit, had become disabled in rough seas. The anchor wasn’t holding, and they were drifting toward shore.
The rough conditions and the location of the boat’s fishing equipment initially made a helicopter hoist too dangerous, and the shoal water and breaking surf made it too dangerous for response boats to come alongside, according to a Coast Guard press release.
"Some of the rigging on the vessel made it difficult for the helicopter to conduct a hoist, as well as weather conditions at the time," Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen told WTEV 47 News of Jacksonville.
Coast Guard and Nassau County Marine Unit boat crews responded and remained nearby to monitor the situation.
Later in the day a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat crew was able to come alongside the trawler to remove the four youngest children — ages 14, 11, 9 and 2 — and transfer them to the Coast Guard boat.
A Coast Guard helicopter crew then hoisted the two adults — James Lee, the owner and the children’s father, and Keith Geiger — and a 15-year-old boy. They were taken to Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport, where a medical crew awaited.
The family members, who are from Darien, Ga., had been without power for seven hours. They were reunited at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville in Atlantic Beach. No injuries were reported.
A hired contractor later removed the oil, fuel and other hazardous materials from the vessel before it was towed ashore in Georgia, according to The Brunswick News.