A boating incident off the Florida Keys that hit the news yesterday brings to light some basic boating safety practices that all water enthusiasts should practice. On Sunday, 7 individuals were rescued from the water almost 20 hours after their recreational boat capsized. One other person, an elderly woman, died before anyone found the boaters.
Apparently, the group of family and friends had set off on Saturday morning from Layton on a 22-foot boat belonging to one of the people in the group. Unfortunately, the forecast for that day was not favorable. While it might have been nice when the group left, there were heavy rains and powerful winds expected. According to a Coast Guard official, there were high winds and heavy chop on the day of the incident. In addition, that same official warned that in the Keys, it is important to constantly monitor the weather as it can shift quickly. In fact, on Saturday, a small craft advisory had been posted warning of wind speeds of 23-38 mph and seas 7 feet or higher.
After heading out from the Middle Keys, the group apparently dropped anchor not far from Long Key Bridge. A squall then hit, with winds up to 40 mph and swells up to 10 feet. This caused the boat to flip over at about noon on Saturday. After capsizing, the group of people got separated. Three women and a young child clung to a cooler and when they were found, all were wearing life jackets. The Coast Guard rescued the women and child. Meanwhile, a group of three men were found by a commercial fisherman eight miles away holding on to the capsized boat. None of them were wearing life jackets; nor was the elderly woman who is presumed to have drowned.
The survivors were all treated and released from a hospital and are considered to be very lucky for having survived the incident. But the experience—and the tragic death of one member of the group—is a strong reminder for boaters to always use personal flotation devices (life jackets) and always keep up with Coast Guard weather warnings.