U.S. Coast Guard air and surface crews rescued a diver in distress on Monday just off Dutchcap Cay in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to a news release from the Coast Guard 7th District in Puerto Rico, the rescued man is a U.S. citizen reported to be in his 60s who went missing during a diving trip with his wife and friends aboard the sailing vessels Divine and Playtime off the west side of Kalkun Cay.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a VHF Channel 16 radio call from the vessel Playtime at 12:50 p.m. Monday reporting both sailing vessels were searching with their dinghies for a missing diver last seen about an hour and a half before. The rescued man went out on a 100-foot dive with three other divers, who did not see him resurface. He was wearing a blue and black camo wetsuit and a silver-colored oxygen tank.
Coast Guard watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard MH-60T helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, while a Coast Guard Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement also responded. Once on scene, the Coast Guard aircrew began searching and deployed a Self-Locating Datum Marker Buoy to measure surface ocean currents in the area.
The Coast Guard aircrew located the missing diver at approximately 3:15 p.m. Monday just off Dutchcap Cay, more than 1.7 nautical miles north of his original position. The helicopter hovered over the diver as the Coast Guard boat crew came alongside and recovered him from the water. The man appeared to be in good health although quite exhausted. The Coast Guard boat crew returned the diver to the sailing vessel Divine after he declined to receive any medical assistance.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone’s face of relief knowing that they are safe in Coast Guard hands after believing they were not going to survive,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Koelle, Boat Forces St. Thomas coxswain for the case. “The efficient teamwork and coordination between Coast Guard responding units and our watchstanders at Sector San Juan achieved a successful outcome in this case.”