Coast Guard, fishing boat crews safe after difficult rescue

Posted at 9:55 AM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 09:58:27-05

The Coast Guard crew had ventured out to save fishermen stuck in a boat rocking in rough waters just off New York’s Rockaway Beach early Thursday.

Until they ended up in that water themselves.

Thankfully, the five would-be rescuers didn’t need rescuing, but swam safely to shore, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi told CNN’s “New Day.”

And hours later, there was a happy ending for the once-stranded fishermen as well.

The ordeal began around 2 a.m., when the Coast Guard got an urgent call that a 76-foot fishing boat with five to seven men aboard was taking on water, according to Flockerzi.

The five Coast Guard members then sprang into action, only to be thwarted when their boat capsized in 10- to 12-foot waves.

While the guardsmen swam to shore, the Carolina Queen III, which they’d gone to help, remained stuck when the sun rose over Rockaway Beach, part of the borough of Queens in the far southeastern part of New York.

Firefighters lined up along the beach as the boat swayed back and forth in strong waves. Even though they were just a few feet from land, they could not get off easily.

Shortly before 7 a.m., the Coast Guard managed to save them not by sea, but by air.

Rescuers were lowered from a helicopter onto the Carolina Queen III. From there, they plucked up those on the fishing boat, lifted them airborne in a basket, and brought them back to shore.

The rescued men later could be seen on video, captured by CNN affiliate WABC, wrapped in long towels or blankets, then walking on the beach away from their boat.

At the time, skies over Far Rockaway appeared largely clear, though conditions were chilly with sustained winds around 20 mph, according to the National Weather Service.