4 boaters found safe after being reported missing near Key West

KEY WEST, FLA. (WSVN) - Four boaters, including two young men under the age of 16, who were reported missing Tuesday have been found safe.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 48-year-old David Thompson, 28-year-old Adam Kelley, 15-year-old Joshua Thompson and 11-year-old Evan Thompson failed to return home from a fishing trip near Key West when they were expected, Tuesday afternoon.

On Thursday, the rescued boaters were full of gratitude.

“Emotionally, we were starting to break down,” said Thompson. “I’ll be honest with you, we were starting to come on gloom a little bit.”

“The Coast Guard, I love them, I have the utmost respect for them,” said Kelley. “They’re amazing.”

Officials said the men left Banana Bay Resort in a 24-foot Grady-White vessel to go fishing north of Key West and were scheduled to return before 4 p.m. However, shortly after departing, their engine stopped working and a bad storm blew in.

“We were anchored up, and then night came, and then it got about 3 in the morning, and that’s when the storm rolled in. Then we started taking on heavy seas because it was throwing the boat around a lot,” Thompson said. “Seas got to about 10-foot, so we had to pull the anchor up, so we didn’t roll the boat over.”

With heavy rain and high seas, the group drifted further north. “We had no communication with nobody,” said Thompson. “We didn’t know if anybody was looking for us. At one point, you know, of course chaos ensued. You know, people get worried with young kids and stuff.”

By day break, they made paddles with makeshift poles attached to scuba flippers. “There were times that I thought, it could end bad,” said Thompson.

Officials were notified of their disappearance when a family member contacted the Coast Guard in Key West, at about 6:30 p.m., Tuesday.

Tuesday evening, the U.S. Coast Guard said two boat crews from Coast Guard Station Key West, two helicopter crews and boat crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission searched the surrounding waters.

On Wednesday, the crews found the boaters and the vessel stranded in the water but safe, 35 miles northwest of Key West.

According officials, a Coast Guard plane was the first to spot one of the boaters waving a life jacket to get their attention. “We started seeing the planes and right when we saw the planes, we were like, ‘Yeah, they’re looking for us,'” Kelley said. “‘They’re looking for us. They’re out here,’ and that just gave me huge peace of mind.”

“I told them to flag everything we had in the boat,” said Thompson. “We were flagging them, letting them know it was us.”

Soon after, a Coast Guard boat was on scene and rescued all four boaters. “They were very relieved that the Coast Guard aircraft was first on scene,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Clint Prindle.

Thompson is thankful to be alive, and he said they owe their lives to the quick action of the Coast Guard. “They saved our lives today,” he said.

All four boaters are OK. “When I saw my wife, and everybody there, I was just so relieved,” Kelley said. “So happy. I broke down in tears, I did. That was the most emotional thing I ever had to deal with in my life.”

The Coast Guard said the family had filed a float plan and had also made other family members aware of where they would be, which made locating them much easier.

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