TOPSAIL BEACH — The Coast Guard rescued five people on Sunday morning, some of them clinging for life to a capsized boat.
According to a Coast Guard release, watchstanders in Wilmington received a mayday call on Sunday morning at 9:52 a.m. The crew of a boat sailing about eight miles off the coast of Topsail Island reported their vessel was taking on water. Just two minutes later, Pender County 911 relayed a call to the Coast Guard from the boat — it had capsized and all five aboard were in the water.
Three of the crew were wearing life jackets, but two were not, leaving them clinging precariously to the boat’s hull.
Due to the urgent nature of the situation, the Coast Guard diverted a HC-130 Hercules aircraft that was already airborne, having taken off from Elizabeth City. According to the release, the Coast Guard also launched two response boats – one 29-foot and one 45-foot from Wrightsille Beach – at 10 a.m., just seven minutes after the 911 call.
It took some time to reach the boat. While the Hercules was able to drop rescue gear and a signal flare to the capsized boat’s crew at 10:35 a.m., it would take another hour until the rescue boats arrived.
According to the Coast Guard, the two boaters without life jackets could have easily drowned in the interim.
As Stephen Sawyer, command duty officer during the incident, said, “This is a perfect example of how vital it is to not only make sure you have life jackets on board, but also that they are readily available in case of an emergency.”