Coast Guard: Men's actions saved lives after boat capsized off Anna Maria Island

June 3, 2014 

CORTEZ -- A group of men rescued off the coast of Anna Maria Island over the weekend are being credited with taking action to save their own lives.

On Sunday, Kenneth Edwards, who is from Sebring, took three other men 60 miles offshore for a fishing trip on his 277 Baha Cruiser. Edwards said the group was on its way back and were 27 miles from shore when when they ran into trouble at around 7:30 p.m. The weather turned bad, the water became rough and things took an ugly turn.

"The waves slammed into the front of the boat and broke the fiberglass out," he said.

Edwards said the boat had a two foot hole in it and it immediately began taking on water.

“You think it will never happen to you," said Edwards. "After yesterday, I believe this can happen to anybody. I don’t care how big or small your boat is.”

Instead of panicking, Edwards and the rest of the men went into action, working to save each other.

"When we noticed it starting to go down, we immediately started distress calling on the radio," he said.

Edwards said he sent out texts to his wife to let her know what was going on and where he was located. He also had everyone put on life jackets, placed flare guns in their pockets, and tied everyone together with a long rope.

Edwards then left the motors running and put two anchors from the boat in the water. One was tied to the boat and the other was connected to a buoy, which they were all tied up to.

This plan was done to make sure the boat and group stayed together in one spot and in the same location they reported in their distress calls. Twenty minutes later, the boat was underwater.

“If it was not for the ropes and stuff being tied to the boat, when it capsized, we would have drifted off,” said Edwards.

Bartholomew Sullivan, Petty Officer Second Class with the U.S. Coast Guard in Cortez, said the group's quick thinking saved them.

"The actions they took helped to save their own lives," said Sullivan. "Not as many people are as lucky as they are.”

The U.S. Coast Guard got to the group around 45 minutes after they sent the distress calls out. A Carnival Cruise Line ship, the Legend, also heard the calls for help and showed up at the same time.

Edwards said he is very grateful they were helped so quickly.

It was a close call on the water with a happy ending, except for the boat. It wasn't insured. Edwards said it was worth around $60,000. While he's not happy about the loss, he knows it could have been worse.

"Loss of life, you can’t put a value on that," said Edwards. "I don’t care about the boat. I just care about the people I was with."

Sullivan with the U.S. Coast Guard said he hopes other boaters learn from these men and take the same precautions before heading out on the water.

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