Two rescued after tug sinks off Florida's Gulf Coast

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) — Two people were rescued by the Coast Guard after the 42-foot tugboat they were aboard began taking on water 17 miles west of Aripeka, Fla., on Thursday.

A crewmember aboard the tug, Walter D. Johnson, contacted Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watchstanders at 4:40 a.m., via mayday call over VHF-FM channel 16. The crewmember hailed his GPS position and the name of the tug. After, the transmission ceased and no further communications were made or established.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., arrived on scene at the last known position and observed two people in the water with life jackets donned approximately a half mile southeast of the sinking tug. The Jayhawk crew rescued both people from the water and confirmed they were the only two aboard the tug. They were transported back to the air station in good condition.

The cause of the sinking is under investigation.

"Again, this is a perfect example of why people should wear their life jackets," said Richard Hutchinson, a search and rescue coordinator at the sector. "When a situation deteriorates as quickly as this did, having that life jacket on will save your life."

By Professional Mariner Staff