Florida Keys News
Thursday, May 22, 2014
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6 divers rescued in rough seas

A slew of state wildlife officers, a Sea Tow operator and a good Samaritan rescued six uninjured divers off Pickles Reef Tuesday night after their anchor line snapped and the boat was sent adrift in strong winds.

All six people were in the water, and there was no one monitoring the 23-foot 2014 Wellcraft center console topside, which complicated the rescue along with strong 20 mph plus winds and 5-foot seas, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Bobby Dube.

The first of the six divers, all were from Georgia, was rescued by a good Samaritan in the area. Another diver was picked up by a FWC boat, and the other four were rescued by Sea Tow, according to FWC call records.

The Coast Guard launched a search plane from Station Miami, a response boat from Station Islamorada, and FWC launched four boats shortly after 5 p.m., according to FWC and Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Peter Bermont.

Dube said all divers were accounted for in about 30 minutes.

The dive boat was found some three miles from the scene about a half mile from the Hens and Chickens Reef, reports state.

Paramedics awaited the FWC ashore, but none of the divers were taken to the hospital.

No one was wearing life jackets, but they were able to inflate their buoyancy compensators and stay above water while rescuers rounded them up, Dube said.

Initial reports indicate that the dive boat's anchor line came out of a protective sleeve and began rubbing against a cleat or another part of the boat, which severed the line, Dube said.

The weather coupled with the lack of a lookout topside could have made the incident much worse, Dube said.

"It could have cost them their lives, but it ended well," Dube said. "They were pretty shook up, but no one was injured. It was pretty rough out there."

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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