"At first he was calm, but all of the sudden in his next transmission he was yelling and almost incoherent, screaming that he was going to have to abandon his boat and get into his life raft. I told him to get in his raft and stay around the vessel and we lost comms with him at that point," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Nocerino.
"You could see [the smoke], it was 5 miles off shore. It is something we do around here, if anyone needs anything we try to help," recalled Chris Lawhon with the Marlin Quay Marina. Lawhon saw the smoke and immediately radioed the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard responded to the report by launching a MH-65D Dolphin helicopter and crew from the air facility in Charleston. They sent a boat crew on a 45-foot response boat and Medium from Coast Guard Station Georgetown also helped.
The fate of that helicopter was up in the air for quite some time. Earlier this year, it was decided to close down the Charleston air facility. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott fought to keep the base open.
"Closing the Air Facility Charleston would mean that the closest Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter will be almost 80 miles away. And when it comes to rescue missions, seconds and minutes are literally the difference between life and death," explained Senator Graham today after hearing about the boat rescue.
That helicopter was crucial in this rescue mission.
"It was on scene before the Coast Guard's smaller boat and provided eyes on the scene and a resource to assist in the rescue," explained Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.
The crew on the Low Bid, a fishing boat in the area responded to the distress calls and rescued the four individuals who escaped to their life raft. The crew reported that one of the men was displaying symptoms of hypothermia and he was taken to Georgetown Memorial Hospital.
"It is cases such as this that serve as a reminder, the importance of mariners equipping their vessels with the appropriate safety equipment, such as marine radios, life jackets and life rafts," said Chief Petty Officer Eric Gentry, command duty officer for the Sector Charleston command center.
The other three people were taken to Murrells Inlet where local EMS were standing by. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.
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