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Coast Guard, Good Samaritan vessel “One Life” rescue a U.S. Virgin Islands’ boater from capsized catamaran off Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

MH-65 Dolphin Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, MH-65 Dolphin Air Station Borinquen, Coast Guard rescue a U.S. Virgin Islands boater
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Niemi (archive).

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessel “One Life” combined efforts to rescue a man from the water Tuesday, after his 12-foot catamaran capsized north of Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.

Rescued is Kevin Wenk, 36, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, who was thrown into the water when his pleasure craft “Electra Cat” capsized half a mile off the north northeastern coast of Culebra Island Tuesday morning.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a VHF Channel 16 marine radio transmission at 11:02 a.m. Tuesday from Wenk, who reported that he was clinging-on to his catamaran, and despite having life jackets onboard, he was unable to retrieve one when the vessel capsized.

Watchstanders in Sector San Juan broadcasted an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast (UMIB) to mariners in the area advising them to be on the lookout. Watchstanders also launched a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, a Boat Forces Saint Thomas 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-LE boat, and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier to search for the distressed boater.

With rescue efforts underway, the operator of the vessel One Life, a recreational vessel near the distress situation, diverted to the scene upon hearing the Coast Guard’s UMIB. As the Good Samaritan responded, Wenk was able communicate via marine radio and vector the One Life to his position.

«This Search and Rescue case highlights the importance of having a VHF Marine Radio onboard all maritime vessels,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Phipps, Chief of the Sector San Juan Command Center. “The Coast Guard listens to VHF Ch. 16 twenty-four hours a day. Based on the VHF Channel 16 transmission, we quickly acquired a Line of Bearing from the handheld waterproof VHF marine radio transmission, which allowed us to vector responding assets to his position. We were also able to talk to Mr. Wenk directly and keep in contact with him until assistance arrived.”

The operator of the One Life safely recovered Wenk from the water and transferred him to the crew of the Boat Forces Detachment Saint Thomas boat, who embarked and transported the rescued boater to Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

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