The news does not appear to be good for the three men still missing off the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
One man has been recovered, but three are still missing.
The Coast Guard received a call early Sunday morning that four boaters did not return from a fishing trip off the coast of Clearwater, Florida. The four men are hard to miss, they include Oakland Raiders linebacker Victor “Marquis” Cooper, Detroit Lions defensive end Corey Smith, William Bleakley and Nick Schuyler. Beakley and Schuyler were former University of South Florida players.
The four set out about 6:30 Saturday morning for a fishing trip in the Gulf and their 21-foot boat was anchored about 35 miles off shore. While the weather was calm in the morning, winds picked up and seas rose up to 14 feet. The men raised the anchor and Schuyler, speaking from his hospital bed, said that’s when the boat overturned.
The Coast Guard found Schuyler Monday sitting on top of the overturned boat. With water reported to be about 61-degrees, Schulyer likely survived because a) he had on a life jacket and b) he stayed with the boat. He is now recovering in the hospital from dehydration and hypothermia as a result of the boating accident off Florida’s coast.
We are hoping for the best for the other men. What are the lessons to be learned here?
First, a 21-foot boat is no match for an eight foot wave, much less a 14-foot wave.
Boaters should always wear life vests, as everyone did onboard here. A vest will keep you floating a little longer, increasing your survival time. Typically someone can survive two to seven hours in water that cold before hypothermia sets in.
Always let someone know when you will return and give them a float plan. Constantly check the weather to monitor conditions that can change on a dime.
If in trouble, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon or EPIRB, signals maritime distress as does an ELT, emergency locator transmitter or PLB, a personal locator beacon, which is for a person in distress. Radio beacons are used to get rescuers on the site within a precious few hours to increases the odds of survival for those injured in a Florida recreational boating accident.
A Global Positioning Satellite unit, (GPS) can help the Coast Guard locate you more quickly. Forget cell phones that far off shore.
And boaters are always advised to take a boating safety course. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers one.
The causes of fishing charter accidents in Florida can vary widely from collisions with another watercraft to falling overboard. In this case, four large men, a relatively small boat, uncooperative weather and just plain bad luck all conspired. We will keep our fingers crossed.
Late word Tuesday afternoon was that a life jacket and cooler were found about 16 miles southeast of where Schuyler was found. The Coast Guard has now called off the search. Our condolences go out the families of the three missing men.