Atlantic Boat and Marine News and Information
One Man Rescued, Three Presumed Dead
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Tuesday, 03/03/09) --

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter Tornado rescued one of the four men missing in the Gulf of Mexico since Saturday evening. Survivor Nick Schuyler was plucked from an overturned vessel 35 miles west of Tampa Bay, Florida, on Monday after clinging to the hull of the boat in heavy seas for nearly 36 hours.

Mr. Schuyler's three friends, Victor "Marquis" Cooper, Corey Smith, and William Bleakley are still missing and the Coast Guard will call off the search for the three at sundown today. Cooper is an Oakland Raiders linebacker, Smith a free-agent defensive lineman and Bleakly a former University of South Florida player.


The Coast Guard announced they believe the missing men have succumb to hypothermia and are likely no longer on the surface. Coast Guard Captain Timothy Close has been quoted as saying "We're extremely confident that if there are any survivors on the surface of the water that we would have found them". Cold water immersion tables note unconsciousness can occur in as little as 2 to 7 hours in the mid 60 degree water the men are exposed to. Expected time of survival in 60 to 70 degree water is 2 to 40 hours. The missing men have been in the water nearly 72 hours at this point in time.

Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received a call at 1: 30 a.m., Sunday, about the overdue boaters. The men reportedly left about 6:30 a.m. Saturday from Seminole Boat Ramp, Clearwater, on a fishing trip in a 21-foot center console boat. Apparently, there was no EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon) on board.

The US Coast Guard, US Air Force, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office searched a combined area of more than 16,000 square miles initially. Six different aircraft and numerous vessels, including three Coast Guard cutters participated in the rescue effort. Once Schuyler was found on Monday, the search area was intensified in the recovery area.

Winds and seas in this area of the Gulf grew rapidly early Sunday. NOAA's buoy 42099 off the St. Petersburg coast recorded seas increasing from 4 to 14 feet in a 3 hour period Sunday morning. Winds were gusting to more than 30 knots during this same time. Although the sea state has settled somewhat, searchers are still contending with 15 to 20 knot winds and 6 to 9 foot seas. Gulf water temperatures are running in the low 60's and wind chill has been in the 40's.

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