Coast Guard rescues 5 from boat off coast of Point Loma

SAN DIEGO - Coast Guard crews pumped water from a sinking boat and rescued five people off the coast of Point Loma, agency officials said Sunday.

The Coast Guard Sector San Diego received an emergency call from the vessel PMS Escape II at 5:58 p.m. Saturday after the boat began to take on water about 17 miles west of Point Loma, according to a statement by U.S. Coast Guard officials.

The boaters aboard the 30-foot pleasure vessel -- including four adults and a 16-year-old boy – were deep sea fishing.

They used a handheld radio to make the call and told the Coast Guard their ship had lost propulsion, was taking on water, listing heavily on its port side and had no battery power to operate its bilge pumps or other electronics, the USCG said.

“When he said ‘call the Coast Guard,’ I knew this was serious,” Mike Jernigan told 10News Monday from Coast Guard headquarters in San Diego. “I didn’t know if there was a giant hole in the boat or a pinhole. I knew there was a problem.”

John Grudzinski, woke up to water at his feet.  

“We just started throwing the water out. We wouldn’t find anything at first because the bucket wouldn’t fit. So we were just dunking water bottles in and throwing those out. “

The Coast Guard dispatched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, a 45-foot response boat and the Coast Guard Cutter Petrel to help the vessel, and sent an urgent broadcast alerting other boaters of the sinking ship, the USCG said. The crew onboard the crippled boat also lit a flare to signal nearby boaters.

The pleasure craft Jawbreaker was in the area and responded to the Coast Guard's emergency broadcast, waiting near the PMS Escape II until the Coast Guard arrived, the USCG said.

The aircrew aboard the Coast Guard helicopter lowered a de-watering pump to the crippled ship and crews from the Coast Guard response boat went onboard with an additional pump to fight the flooding, the USCG said. Once Coast Guard crews controlled the flooding, they determined that a faulty fitting in the vessel's engine room caused the problem.

"These boaters had life jackets, a back-up radio, signaling devices and knew to call the Coast Guard when they couldn't keep up with the flooding," Coast Guard Sector San Diego Capt. Jonathan Spaner said. "Being prepared makes a huge different when you're out on the water and can sometimes be the difference between life and death."

After pumping enough water off the crippled boat, the Coast Guard Cutter Petrel brought aboard four of the PMS Escape II's boaters and took the crippled vessel in tow, leaving the boat's master onboard to mind the helm.

A commercial towing company relieved the Coast Guard of the tow about five miles west of Point Loma and was taking the boat to Marina Cortez in Harbor Island, the USCG statement said.

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