Coast Guard Rescues Stranded Diver Off Dutchcap Cay In St. Thomas
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A diver’s worst fear is being stranded alone in the open sea, and a man in his 60s faced that terrifying situation after he was stranded in the water for four hours while diving with friends off St. Thomas.
The man survived the harrowing experience thanks to U.S. Coast Guard air and surface rescue crews, who located him around 3:15 p.m. Monday just off Dutchcap Cay, nearly two miles north of his original position.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone’s face of relief knowing that they are safe in Coast Guard hands after believing they were not going to survive,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Koelle, Boat Forces St. Thomas coxswain for the case. “The efficient teamwork and coordination between Coast Guard responding units and our watchstanders at Sector San Juan achieved a successful outcome in this case.”
According to U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad, the man went missing during a diving trip with his wife and friends aboard the sailing vessels Divine and Playtime off the west side of Kalkun Cay. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a VHF Channel 16 radio call “from the vessel Playtime at 12:50 p.m. reporting both sailing vessels were searching with their dinghies for a missing diver last seen about an hour and half before.”
“The rescued man went out on a 100-foot dive with three other divers, who did not see him resurface. He was wearing a blue and black camo wetsuit and a silver colored oxygen tank,” Castrodad said.
Coast Guard watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard MH-60T helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, while a Coast Guard Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement also responded. Once on scene, the Coast Guard aircrew began searching and deployed a Self-Locating Datum Marker Buoy to measure surface ocean currents in the area, he said.
The helicopter hovered over the diver as the Coast Guard boat crew came alongside and recovered the man from the water, Castrodad said, adding that the man appeared to be in good shape although “quite exhausted.”
The boat crew returned the diver to the sailing vessel Divine after he declined medical assistance.