MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - As revelers prepare to welcome the summer season this Memorial Day weekend, search and rescue crews in South Florida are prepared to help prevent tragedies in the water.
A 7News crew joined the U.S. Coast Guard for a first-hand look at how they plan to keep boaters safe during the holiday weekend.
An aviation survival technician showed 7News how they receive distress calls. “We get called out for red flare sightings. “These people call in and say, ‘Hey, there’s a boater in distress here,'” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant.
That’s when rescue crews take action, putting on gear before a quick briefing. Every standard air rescue has a team of four: a pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic and rescue swimmer. Each plays a crucial role in saving lives.
The pilot headed to Biscayne Bay to demonstrate an air rescue. Hovering above the water, the rescue swimmer is hoisted down and swims toward the survivor, before being pulled back up into the chopper.
“No life jacket, we can’t see you from above. It’s very, very difficult on a day like this,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Brian M. Kostecki.
That’s when having flares is a necessity, as well as special radios that pinpoint a boater’s exact location.
“The EPIRB [Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon] and registering that with NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], and also having your radios,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephanie Irizarry.
For more extensive searches, the Coast Guard will send out their large and fast HC-144s, known for their detection abilities, more than 10 miles out. “We have a really powerful radar that can pick out boats, rafts, things like that in the water,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Hayden Kren.
According to the Coast Guard, Florida leads the nation in boating accidents, with over 670 in 2015 alone. Forty-nine of those resulted in death.
Just in the past week, South Florida has seen numerous accidents back to back. On Sunday, a personal watercraft collided with a boat just off the coast of Miami, near the Picnic Islands. Earlier that day, an explosion on a boat, near Black Point Marina, in Southwest Miami-Dade, sent three children on board to the hospital.
Hours before those incidents, paramedics rushed four people to Broward Health Medical Center after two boats collided on the Intracoastal Waterway, in Fort Lauderdale.
Tuesday afternoon, two fishermen died after their boat capsized off Dania Beach.
But Coast Guard crews said they will do their best to prevent similar tragedies from happening this summer. “We do fly a lot. We go out on missing divers, overdue vessels, red flare sightings, you know, a lot of boats taking on water,” said Gallant.
These are all scenarios rescue crews hope to prevent with a little education for both new and experienced boaters as part of National Safe Boating Week, May 20 through 26.
The U.S. Coast Guard has a free mobile app for boaters to register their vessel and get a float plan. To download click here.
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