The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter to rescue four fishermen 30 miles east of Venice Tuesday afternoon when their 28-foot boat started taking on water and sank in a matter of minutes, an official said.
Lt. Carl Luxhoj with Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans said the incident, which was captured on cellphone video by the vessel’s captain, happened about 2 p.m. The fishing crew consisted of three adults and one 15-year-old, he said.
“They were going out fishing, and basically they’re not sure how it happened, but they sprung a leak and they realized very quickly they were going to sink in a matter of minutes,” Luxhoj said. “They had one life vest on board, so they gave that to the 15-year-old. The captain had the whereabouts to head toward the nearest structure, which was an abandoned offshore oil platform.
“And basically he crashed it into there as fast as he could and three of them jumped off the bow, he jumped off and they were able to climb up and basically hang out there.”
Luckily, the captain’s cellphone worked from their location, and the Coast Guard dispatched an MH-65 Delta Dauphine helicopter for the rescue from the air station in Belle Chasse, he said.
“Amazingly, their cellphone worked so they were able to to get a call off to the Coast Guard and we got a position off that cellphone. We flew out to there position with the lat/long off their cellphone, and found them their underneath a shack on the platform itself,” Luxhoj said. “They came out, gave us a wave and we sent a rescue swimmer down. He made sure they were all OK — no one had major injuries or anything, and then we hoisted all four of them up and back to Air Station New Orleans.
“They were all fine.”
Luxhoj said the crew was fortunate the abandoned rig was nearby when the boat started taking on water.
“They were very lucky,” he said. “Basically from when they noticed the water and the time they got off, it was two minutes.”
Being prepared for emergency situations — especially offshore — will greatly increase your odds of survival, Luxhoj said.
“We always stress the importance of having life jackets for everybody on the crew, and having a personal locator beacon and a radio increases our chances of finding people,” he said. “Usually cellphone reception isn’t that great offshore.
“Everybody’s accustomed to having their cellphone for everything, but once you get offshore, there’s no guarantee you’ll have reception. But if you have a radio, it’s more likely that will work.”
The captain of the vessel, identified by New Orleans TV stations WDSU and WGNO as Tom Mallett, told the media there were additional life jackets on board the boat, but they didn’t have time to grab them before the vessel sank.