CHARLOTTE HARBOR, Fla.- The Charlotte County Sheriff's Aviation Unit helicopter found two missing boaters at 12:36 a.m. Monday; they were reported missing Sunday night at 9:52 p.m.
CCSO received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard concerning a distress call they received saying four women in a 23 foot bay boat reported two men with them were ejected from the boat when they hit a sandbar. The six of them left at 11:00 a.m. Sunday from a dock behind 171 Dartmouth Drive in Port Charlotte. They navigated toward Gasparilla Island and stopped on a sandbar for snacks and alcohol. At sunset they boarded the boat to head back home and reportedly struck a sandbar. The women at first reported they both fell overboard then later said the two men were fooling around and jumped into the water. The women took control of the boat and pretended to leave them. They made several circles in the dark around Turtle Bay and then were unable to find them. After 30 to 40 minutes of trying to locate them, they contacted emergency services.
Participating in the search of Charlotte Harbor were the CCSO Marine Unit and Aviation helicopter, Charlotte County Fire/EMS, Cape Coral Fire, Boca Grande Fire, Lee County Fire, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC). At 10:48 p.m. a fire/EMS boat located the boat with the four women near Boca Grande; all four reportedly appeared to be intoxicated and. Their boat was escorted by CCSO Marine and FWC to Boca Grande Marina.
The CCSO helicopter piloted by Mark Brownie usedits FLIR heat seeking equipment began searching the west wall of Charlotte Harbor. At 12:36 a.m. Monday, CCSO Deputy First Class Jaime Jones located the two missing men with the FLIR equipment; the men were in waist deep water, frantically waving. They were located in the water about 1½ miles north of Cape Haze Point, and about a quarter mile off shore. The helicopter shined its night lights on the two men and directed fire rescue boats to their location. The men were picked up and then taken to a nearby marina. One of the men is from Port Charlotte, the other from Harbour Heights. FWC took over the entire investigation as the incident occurred in its jurisdiction.