Marine officers busy with three ocean rescues

High winds coupled with crowded August seas required three on-the-water rescues by Florida Keys state marine officers this week.

None of the potentially dangerous incidents resulted in death or serious injury, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

On Wednesday in the Lower Keys, a 16-foot boat with two men aboard capsized near American Shoal.

The sun was going down when Officer Jimmy Johnson received word of a 911 call made by cell phone. He reached the scene around 7:30 p.m. to find Jacksonville residents Jeremy Doan and Edward O’Keefe, both 39, sitting atop the overturned hull of their Baycraft boat.

As the two tried to end their fishing trip, the boat’s anchor line got caught in the propeller, turning the boat’s stern into the rough seas.

“Waves [came] over the transom and flooded the boat, causing it to capsize,” the FWC reported. The boaters told Johnson that “it took only about 30 seconds to capsize.”

They were able to retrieve a dry box with a cell phone to call for help. Johnson took the men to the Venture Out Campground on Cudjoe Key. A salvor recovered the boat.

In a 10 a.m. Monday incident near Marathon, a diver disappeared in bad weather near East Washerwoman Shoal.

“Weather conditions were heavy rain, 3- to 5-foot swells and winds gusting to 15 knots,” FWC officers Ryan Smith and Domingo Montalvo described.

A U.S. Coast Guard boat was dispatched from its Marathon base, and a U.S. Navy helicopter flying overhead joined the search. Within minutes, the helicopter crew spotted what appeared to be the diver on the surface, not far from the FWC boat.

The unharmed diver, identified only as Bruce Tusitin, was recovered and returned his boat.

While on patrol Sunday in the Dry Tortugas, the FWC offshore patrol boat Peter Gladding was called to help search for a diver, Cory Rogers, 22, who had missing for more than an hour. The FWC crew calculated the likely current pattern and found Rogers about an hour later.

Rogers was in the water for nearly three hours, and drifted about five miles from his boat. He gave up one of his speared fish to “the sharks that were nearby,” he told the crew.

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