CHARLESTON, S.C. - A Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew from Air Facility Charleston rescued three fishermen approximately 45-miles east of Charleston Sunday, Sept. 6, after the fishing vessel they were aboard sank.
The Coast Guard received a maritime distress signal via a 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon at about 9:17 p.m. from the fishing vessel Captain Smoke, a 39-foot fishing boat. The boat sustained heavy damage after being struck by two large waves and sank as a result.
A Coast Guard Air Facility Charleston rescue helicopter crew was launched shortly after the distress call and arrived on-scene at 10:14 p.m. The crew located a debris field and observed three flares shot from the surface. The rescue helicopter aircrew deployed a rescue swimmer and three fishermen were located alive in a life raft. All three fishermen were safely recovered and hoisted aboard.
The fishermen were transported to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
This rescue illustrates the importance of having safety equipment in the event of an emergency. When activated, an EPIRB disseminates an emergency signal during a maritime distress that is detected by satellites and transmitted to rescue coordination centers worldwide. If the EPIRB is properly registered, the Coast Guard will be able to use the registration information to immediately begin action on the case. If the EPIRB is unregistered, a distress alert may take as much as two hours longer to reach the Coast Guard over the international satellite system.
One of the survivors aboard the Captain Smoke made the decision to manually activate the EPIRB device before abandoning ship to their life raft. This decision greatly enhanced their timely rescue by the Coast Guard.
In addition, the use of signal flares enabled the Coast Guard rescue crew to pinpoint the location of the three fishermen.
"It appears that the vessel captain was prepared for an emergency. The combination of a properly registered EPIRB, a working liferaft, and signal flares allowed us to find and recover the crew without delay," said Capt. Michael McAllister, commander, Sector Charleston. "Anyone who heads to ocean waters, whether on a commercial or recreational boat, should be similarly prepared. This is especially true as water temperatures start dropping with cooler weather and a few hours less search time becomes critical."