A fishing trip turned into a rescue mission over the weekend when three people became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for more than a day after their boat sank, with two of them fighting off shark attacks before help arrived, officials said.
Rescuers spotted the three people in the water Sunday about 25 miles off the coast of Empire, Louisiana, after they were reported missing by a concerned family member who said they had not returned from their fishing trip Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Heartland said in a news release.
When rescue crews located the trio, they found two of them fending off sharks in the water. A boat crew pulled them out and they were taken to a hospital via helicopter. The third boater was hoisted from the water. All three are in stable condition, with two suffering hand injuries and one showing signs of hypothermia when rescued, the Coast Guard said.
“If the family member had not notified the Coast Guard, and if these three boaters were not wearing life jackets, this could’ve been a completely different outcome,” Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Keefe, a Sector New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, said in the release.
The trio’s boat sank around 10 a.m. Saturday, officials said, and rescuers searched an area of about 1,250 square miles – about the size of Rhode Island, the release said.
“We appreciate the assistance of the boating public, who were instrumental in helping identify possible areas where these boaters could have been operating before the vessel became in distress,” Keefe said.