When rescuers arrived on the scene, there was nothing left of the 60ft sailing catamaran, sunk below the waters of the Gulf of Mexico this week. Had they not had proper equipment to radio their plight, the 12 people in the water, supported by their life jackets, may have come to a very different end.
60ft catamaran had already sunk below the waves by the time rescue arrived - photo from US Coast Guard
Coast Guard boat and helicopter crews rescued the 12 people after their catamaran, Reefman, began taking on water overnight and sank 14 miles off Freeport.
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.
However, the time between the call and the watchstanders losing contact was very short. They launched rescue crews aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Houston and a 45-foot Response Boat—Medium from Station Freeport.
While the survivors did not make it clear why the catamaran was unsaveable, the time of the rescue and the shortness of the time between the first call and loss of contact indicate, according to some reports, that the crew and passengers were unaware of the water entering the boat until it was too late.
The aircrew arrived on scene at 9:45 a.m. 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 boat crew arrived minutes later and the rescue swimmer began swimming each survivor to the Coast Guard boat.
'These situations are exactly what we train for,' said Petty Officer third Class Paul Wiedenhoeft, the helicopter's rescue swimmer later. '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,' they said, 'having a VHF-FM marine band radio and lifejackets can mean the difference between life and death.'
The video was taken by the Coast Guard from the Dolphon helicopter: