South of Empire, Louisiana about 25 miles offshore, three unidentified fishermen in their 24-foot center-console fishing boat found themselves in panic mode as their boat went down about 10 in the morning on Oct. 8.
They treaded water with life preservers, but had no means of electronically reporting their situation, as their boat held all communication equipment.
Family members of the anglers finally alerted the U.S. Coast Guard late Saturday night that the men were missing, and a frantic search for them began late on Oct. 8.
The three fishermen spent what surely must have been a harrowing night in the water, as Coast Guard helicopters and boats initiated a search.
A Coast Guard helicopter located the men the following day, Sunday, Oct. 9 and a rescue boat “arrived on scene and witnessed two of the boaters fending off sharks, along with shark bite injuries to both boater’s hands,” reported the Biloxi News-Herald.
“The two boaters were pulled from the water by the boat crew before additional injuries could occur,” officials said. The third boater was hoisted from the water by helicopter.
Two of the three anglers had shark bites to their hands, one fishermen was believed to have hypothermia, officials said. One angler’s life jacket was torn during the shark attack.
A helicopter transported the three men to University Medical Center New Orleans, “where they were reported in stable condition,” officials said.
“We searched an area roughly the size of Rhode Island and are thankful to have found these missing boaters,” Coast Guard Lt. Commander Kevin Keefe 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.
“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.”
It’s not known what caused the fishing boat to sink.
Many experienced offshore anglers are equipped these days with specialized emergency electronic equipment such as EPIRB and PLB satellite communication devices. Such high-tech equipment automatically triggers notification of friends, family and authorities when a boating mishap occurs.
Such devices potentially could have brought rescue sooner to the anglers who fought sharks so furiously in the recent Gulf of Mexico incident.