Search underway for woman after catamaran sinks in Florida Straits

OPA-LOCKA, FLA. (WSVN) - U.S. Coast Guard crews continue to search for a woman who was on board a catamaran that partially sank in the Florida Straits, Sunday night.

According to officials, a Coast Guard crew rescued a man from a life raft. The man, later identified as Lewis Bennett, claimed he and his wife, whom he identified as 41-year-old Isabella Hellman of Delray Beach, were vacationing on the 37-foot catamaran.

Bennett said the boat was about 30 miles off Cay Sal, Bahamas, north of Cuba, when he heard the vessel strike an unknown object, at around 8 p.m. He said Hellman was on the deck of the boat when it struck the object.

Bennett told officials the catamaran began taking on water, and he escaped via a life raft. He then contacted the Coast Guard.

Speaking with 7News, Monday night, Hellman’s boss confirmed Bennett’s claim. “It was a romantic type of a getaway with her new husband,” said Ben Schachter. “I know she’s a very, very avid outdoors person. She loves to do anything involving the sun and the sand and the beach.”

Schachter praised his employee, who is the mother of a 9-month-old baby. “She’s a fantastic person, a great mother,” said Ben Schachter. “Very, very bubbly, outgoing, cheerful person. She’s the kind of person that her personality brightens up a room.”

A Coast Guard patrol aircraft returned to its base in Opa-locka, Monday evening, but officials said the search for Hellman is ongoing.

“This is a sweet, wonderful girl, and I’m sure we’re going to find good news, ’cause I have to believe this,” said Schachter. “We want to keep all this moving forward. We want to think positive thoughts.”

Officials said the catamaran is registered to Australia and its last port of call was Cuba.

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