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U.S. Coast Guard suspends search for 6 missing boaters off Fort Pierce

Boat capsized on Jan. 10 after departing from Bimini, Bahamas, officials say
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for six missing boaters off the coast of Fort Pierce on Feb. 14, 2021.jpg
Posted at 10:28 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 18:21:40-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — After several days of around-the-clock searching, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday it's suspended the search for six missing boaters off the coast of Fort Pierce.

The Coast Guard said it received a call on Jan. 10 from a good Samaritan who had rescued a Jamaican national from a capsized boat about 23 miles east of Fort Pierce.

The survivor said there were six other people in the water. The boat had capsized after the group had departed from Bimini, Bahamas.

The Coast Guard used multiple rescue boats and helicopters to search for the missing boaters for nearly six days. However, the search was suspended at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Southern Eagle pulled out of the Pelican Yacht Club in Fort Pierce early Friday morning to catch marlin, but about 45 minutes later the captain started focusing on a red dot on the radar.

"I realized immediately we were no longer looking for fish, we were there to rescue somebody," said Capt. Chase Cornell.

Peter Busch, the chairman of the board at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and owner of Southern Eagle Distributing on the Treasure Coast, was downstairs sleeping when his boat came to a stop.

"I'm just very very thankful, I'm thankful that we were in the right spot at the right time," Busch said.

The crew found a man clinging to a boat nearly submerged in the water about 23 miles from the Fort Pierce Inlet.

"We got closer and I saw the guy stick his hand up and start waving," Capt. Cornell said.

The man told Busch and his crew that he was from Jamaica and left from Bimini, Bahamas when a rogue wave capsized the boat Wednesday. Six others also went overboard.

"He told us he couldn't swim so at that point we got the life ring out and tossed him the life ring," Capt. Cornell said.

Capt Cornell called the Coast Guard as they pulled the man on board.

"Then, actually we had to take off his clothes he was soaked in gasoline and we squirted him down and got Dawn soap and rubbed him down his skin was burning," Busch said.

The crew helped keep the man warm until the Coast Guard arrived.

"I think there was someone else helping me in that situation. I can't explain it other than it was just a miracle," Capt. Cornell said.

Capt. JoAnn Burdian, the commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami, released this statement on Monday:

"The decision to suspend a search-and-rescue case is never one we come to lightly. We offer our deepest sympathies to the friends and families of those involved during this difficult time."

If you have any information about the missing boaters, call the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami at 305-535-4300.