Why they lived

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What they did right

  • FLOAT PLAN: The four men gave loved ones specific information about their fishing trip and stayed in touch on cell phones. Their plan was to arrive back at the launching point at 4 p.m. Crewmember Roy Letson called his wife shortly before they got under way and started back toward land. Douglas Whittaker normally calls his wife upon his return to the boat ramp; she knew something was wrong when he failed to call and she contacted authorities.
  • LIFE JACKETS: They placed their PFDs in an easy-to-access location - the backs of the seats - so they could quickly be donned.
  • STAY PUT: The men remained with the boat rather than attempting to swim toward land or another boat.
  • HYPOTHERMIA: They remained on top of the boat and out of the water as much as possible to prevent hypothermia. The body cools 25 times faster when immersed in water.

What the crew learned

  • WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION: The men say they should have paid more attention to the way weight was distributed in the 19-footer. A cooler loaded with fish and ice was placed in the bow area, which may have been a factor in how the boat handled in the waves. Also, the four men were gathered in the same general area at the helm.
  • PFDs: Life jackets must fit properly. Whittaker was unable to fasten his PFD because it was too small. Also, the men wore darker-colored vest-style PFDs. Bright orange PFDs will give search-and-rescue crews a better chance of seeing you.
  • SIGNALING DEVICE: Carry a flashlight or strobe (ideally on your PFD) to signal other boats or search-and-rescue personnel. A mirror is a great low-tech device for signaling.
  • CELL PHONES: Place cell phones in waterproof bags. All of the anglers' phones got wet and were inoperable.
  • EMERGENCY BEACON: An EPIRB or PLB can greatly reduce the time it takes rescue authorities to find you.

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