Five mariners rescued April 15 by the U.S. Coast Guard reunited with their rescuers Thursday in Clearwater, Fla.
Various members from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Station Yankeetown and Air Station Clearwater attended the reunion, shook hands with the mariners and swapped stories about the rescue.
“It’s not that often that we get to meet the folks that we were able to render assistance to,” said Cmdr
. Randall Brown, the search-and-rescue mission coordinator for the April 15 rescue. “It makes it extra special that we can actually shake someone’s hand and hear their side of the story."
At 11:04 p.m. April 14, watch standers from Sector St. Petersburg received a mayday call via VHF-FM marine band radio channel 16 from Will Knight, a commercial salvage company boat captain, stating he and his crew member, Bradley Register, were in need of emergency assistance.
Knight and Register responded to three people aboard a 33-foot fishing boat that ran out of gas. The 33-foot boat drifted 26 miles west of Cedar Key. When the men reached the fishing boat, the weather changed from calm to 5-foot waves and 15-knot winds. Knight stated he towed the fishing boat for two miles until waves came over the front of his boat, and his boat's bilge pump stopped working. Knight and Register cut the tow line and raced to the back of their boat.
Lorraine Crandall was on the 33-foot fishing boat when she saw the commercial salvage boat capsize. She said she immediately called the Coast Guard. On the other end of the radio was Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephanie Sherry, an operations specialist at Sector St. Petersburg.
At the reunion, Crandall shook Sherry's hand and thanked her for her calm words and professionalism over the radio.
"It’s nice to get to meet the guys behind the scenes, the one’s you’re talking to on the radio," said Knight.
Knight said he was in the water for almost two hours before a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Clearwater arrived at 12:19 a.m. April 15. The Jayhawk crew hoisted Knight and Register from the capsized hull of their boat and transported them to Air Station Clearwater.
Meanwhile, a 27-foot Special Purpose Craft-Shallow Water boat crew from Coast Guard Station Yankeetown arrived on scene and placed the 33-foot fishing boat in tow. They transferred the boat to another commercial salvage boat at approximately 4:30 a.m.
Even after their experience, Knight and Register say they continue to work for the salvage company.
"Their worst day is the day we train for pretty extensively,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jethro Hauser, the rescue swimmer who hoisted Knight and Register. "It was pretty nice to see they were all good and well, back at it and out there helping other mariners.”