NFL players may have shed life vests in struggle against elements
A sad story gets sadder ...
Nick Schuyler, the lone survivor of an ordeal involving a capsized fishing boat off Florida's Gulf Coast, told investigators that he and three others -- including NFL players Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith, who remain missing and presumed drowned -- had donned life vests after their boat was flipped by a large wave.
But the St. Petersburg Times, quoting family members who were briefed by the U.S. Coast Guard, reports that the two NFL players eventually slipped free of their life vests and drifted off, with no more fight. The third missing fisherman, Will Bleakley, claimed to have seen a light and reportedly tried swimming to safety.
Whatever the details, three men are probably dead and what they went through underscores how quickly things can go wrong at sea, especially for those not thoroughly prepared.
With this in mind, the BoatU.S. Foundation offers these tips for anyone pondering an offshore fishing trip aboard a private vessel:
-- File a float plan and make sure you adhere to it. By filing a float plan with a reliable family member or friend, they will be your first life-line to safety by letting the authorities know when you are overdue, where you had planned to go, and what time you were supposed to return.
-- Have a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF radio and ensure it's connected to your GPS receiver. With the U.S. Coast Guard's modern coastal "Rescue 21" system now operational in many parts of the country, including the Gulf Coast, anyone aboard a boat can simply press the mayday button on the radio that automatically gives rescuers precise location information. DSC VHF radios are also now available in hand-held models.
-- Purchase or rent an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). These satellite beacons are used for passages 20 miles or more from shore, beyond VHF radio range, and can be automatically activated to summon help. The Foundation rents these lifesaving beacons to anglers, racers and other coastal passage makers who have a temporary need for this safety device. To date, the rental beacons have saved 62 lives.
Meanwhile, a small armada of private boaters has embarked upon a search for the missing fishermen. The Coast Guard abandoned its search Tuesday evening.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard