Coast Guard and life jackets save 12 after sailboat sinks


The master of the catamaran, Reef Man, made a Mayday call on VHF channel 16 at 9:10 a.m. and reached watchstanders at Sector Houston-Galveston. The watchstanders lost contact shortly after and launched rescue crews aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Houston and a 45-foot response boat from Station Freeport.

The aircrew arrived on scene at 9:45am to find the catamaran had completely sunk and the people were wearing their lifejackets, floating in the water. They deployed the rescue swimmer to assist them. The boatcrew arrived minutes later and the rescue swimmer began swimming each person to the Coast Guard boat.

"These situations are exactly what we train for," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Wiedenhoeft, the helicopter's rescue swimmer. "As I came to the door and saw all the people in the water, it was at that point where all the training started to kick in. I just jumped in the water and started swimming."

The Coast Guard urges all mariners to have the proper safety equipment. In instances like this one, having a VHF-FM marine band radio and lifejackets can mean the difference between life and death.

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