Coast Guard, good Samaritan rescue 2 fishermen after boat capsizes

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The Coast Guard and a good Samaritan rescued two boaters Thursday after their 25-foot boat capsized 50 miles west of Naples.

Rescued were Frederick Cunningham, 42, and James Nipper, 48.

At 5:56 a.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a Mayday via VHF-FM radio channel 16 from a man stating, “Mayday, Mayday – this is the vessel…” but the transmission was lost. Two additional calls from the same man were received but no usable information could be heard. >click to listen<

Sector St. Petersburg watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast and launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew and HC-130 Hercules airplane crew, from Air Station Clearwater, and a boatcrew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Station Fort Myers Beach.

At 7:48 a.m., Coast Guard Seventh District command center watchstanders received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon alert from the 25-foot commercial fishing boat.

The Hercules aircrew spotted two boaters clinging to the hull of their boat at 8:03 a.m. The Hercules aircrew remained on scene until a good Samaritan aboard the commercial fishing boat, Denise Marie II, responded to the UMIB and rescued the two boaters from the water. The Denise Marie II crew transferred the two boaters to their sister ship, the commercial fishing boat “Father and Son”.

The Station Fort Myers RBM boatcrew transferred the boaters from the “Father and Son” to the RBM and transported the boaters to Pelican Pier Marina with no reported injuries.

“The MAYDAY and EPIRB were both critical to finding and rescuing these two boaters, said Lt. j.g. Diane French, watchstander at Sector St. Petersburg’s command center. “The MAYDAY gave us the initial notification of distress, but not all radio transmissions—particularly those so far offshore—provide us with an exact fix or line of bearing. In this case, without either, the search area was very large. The subsequent EPIRB activation was the key to narrowing down the area and giving the aircraft a more precise location to search.”

An EPIRB sends a boater’s position to rescue personnel once activated in an emergency and the Coast Guard recommends all mariners have one aboard their boat.

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