Coast Guard rescues mariner from sailboat on fire 60 miles east of Chincoteague

May 25, 2024
 |
Sailboat Rescue Coast Guard

Pictured: A 58-year-old man on a 9-foot dingy waves at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City rescue aircrews as they arrive on scene after receiving a 406-megahertz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon alert May 23, 2024, 60 miles east of Chincoteague, Virginia. The mariner had abandoned his 45-foot sailboat, Trilogy after it caught fire while he was transiting from the Bahamas to New Jersey. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City.)

The Coast Guard rescued a mariner late Thursday evening from a sailboat on fire nearly 60 miles east of Chincoteague.

Fifth Coast Guard District Command Center watchstanders received a 406-megahertz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon at approximately 8:30 p.m. for the 45-foot sailing vessel Trilogy. Watchstanders directed the launch of an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, as well as issued an Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue alert.

The Hercules crew arrived on scene at 10:10 p.m. and spotted a dingy with a person aboard. The dingy was near the Trilogy, which was on fire. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at 10:50 p.m., safely hoisted a 58-year-old man, who had no reported major injuries, from the life raft and flew him to Norfolk Sentara for further medical evaluation.

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“Due to this mariner’s diligence to have an EPIRB on board his vessel, rescue crews were alerted to his distress and arrive in a timely manner,” said Lt. j.g. Erin Bellen, search and rescue operations unit controller with Fifth Coast Guard District. “This mariner also had filed a float plan with a family member, which the Coast Guard always recommends you do even for short day trips. He also had an emersion suit, which he had put on prior to getting in the dingy. All these actions and planning for a maritime emergency helped save his life.”

Here are some tips boaters can use to have a safe summer on the water:

  • Always wear a life jacket. The Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, correctly fastened, and suitable for your activity. In 2022, where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating incident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Boat sober. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.
  • Check the weather before going out on the water. Know your weather limitations – what your boat can handle and what it can’t. Check the weather for storms, tides, currents, and winds.
  • Have an EPIRB. Always go out with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Own it, know it, and register it. An EPIRB is a device that is designed to transmit a distress signal if you get into trouble. No matter where you are in the world, an EPIRB sends a signal to emergency responders through a satellite system.
  • File a float plan! A float plan is telling someone where you are going and when you plan to return. A float plan should be given to a friend or family member and includes a description of your boat, what is on board and a description of the safety equipment you are carrying. If you change plans mid-voyage, let someone know!
  • Always take a marine radio. A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.

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