FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A Florida boat captain is being credited with saving a man lost at sea off the coast of Fort Pierce.
The U.S. Coast Guard said at least one person is dead and dozens more are missing after a boat believed to be involved in a human smuggling operation capsized Tuesday.
The crew of a tugboat, the Signet Intruder, noticed something odd in the water.
"We spotted an object that looked odd," Capt. Ryan Elwin said. "We turned towards it to get a closer look. Once we got closer, we realized it was a boat that was capsized."
The boat's crew took pictures. The image below shows a 25-foot overturned boat with a man sitting on it.
"We could see he was very weak, you know. He could barely hold on," Elwin said. "He was holding onto a rope tied to the bottom of the capsized vessel. First thing we knew we had to do, we had to do something to help that person."
The Coast Guard said the man who was rescued is lucky.
"We often rely on sometimes heroic acts of good Samaritans operating in a marine environment and this case is no exception," Coast Guard Cmdr. Jo-Ann Burdian said. "We're deeply grateful that that mariner located the survivor in this case and saved his life."
Burdian said the boat the man was sitting on was involved in a human smuggling operation.
"This event occurred in a normal route for human smuggling from the Bahamas into the southeast U.S.," she said.
Elwin said regardless of how the man ended up clinging to a capsized boat, he's thankful for spotting him.
"It's God's grace. Put us right on top of him," he said.
The Coast Guard eventually picked up the man from the tugboat.
The search continues for the dozens who remain missing.