MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A team of brave and dedicated Martin County marine deputies rescued a pair of boaters over the weekend after an accident left them adrift and alone in dangerous waters off the Treasure Coast.
The Martin County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook Sunday that the boaters were going through the St. Lucie Inlet when a woman was thrown into the water.
A man who was driving the boat jumped in to rescue her, but their boat drifted away, leaving them stranded.
"It wasn’t until the boat nearly washed ashore before anyone realized that a rescue was necessary," the sheriff's office posted.
MCSO Marine Deputies Mike Joseph, Pete Peterson, and Buddy Sprott -- who was off-duty at the time -- began searching the ocean in rough conditions.
"[The deputies] did hear what sounded like faint screams in the distance so they followed the sounds which led them right to the two boaters," the sheriff's office posted. "Both people could barely stay afloat after treading ocean water for more than 30 minutes."
The deputies pulled the couple from the water and brought them to shore near Bathtub Beach. They were exhausted but otherwise uninjured.
Deputy Joseph has been patrolling these waters for years and knows the area’s trickiest spots.
"Beginning of our shift, a lot of guys will come out here and check the sea state, see what we’re dealing with for the day," Joseph said.
Sunday, lifeguards at Bathtub Beach saw a boat drifting toward the reef.
They made it on board and found two IDs and other personal belongings, so they called the sheriff’s office.
"All it takes is one wrong wave, or lose your footing and you’re in the water," Joseph said.
It turns out, a woman on board had fallen in the inlet. The other person killed the engine and jumped in. But when he got to her, the boat was too far away, and they were at the mercy of the current.
Based on their knowledge of the area, Deputy Joseph and the other rescuers had an idea of where they could be.
"We looked in the water and saw a head bobbing in between the breaking waves," Joseph said.
They also heard the cries for help.
"For us to hear it, 200 to 300 yards away, it carried really well," Joseph said. "They were struggling, treading water for over 30 minutes. They were visibly tired and shaken."
Deputy Joseph said neither boater was wearing a life jacket, but there were jackets on the boat, so no citation was issued.
"The St. Lucie Inlet is very dangerous especially with the water like that. At any time in a smaller vessel you could take it over the front, you could swamp the vessel and obviously fall overboard," Joseph said.
Joseph says this wasn’t his first rescue, and it probably won’t be his last.
"It’s always a good day like I said when we can do this and help people out, that’s why I do it," Joseph said.