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Boat captain discovers lost Coast Guard raft used in Sally rescue mission

A Marco Island fishing captain found a rescue raft with equipment inside but no one around. The captain did some investigating to find out what happened, and he says he learned it was used during a successful mission.

Raymond Evans with the U.S. Coast Guard was with a crew on a rescue mission when Hurricane Sally was a tropical storm.

“The seas were exceedingly terrible; the wind was terrible,” Evans said. “They lowered me to the water, and once I unclipped, I sprinted towards the sailing vessel.”

U.S. Coast Guard crew members recall a tough rescue during Sally’s movement across the southern parts of Florida. At one point during the mission, one of the divers tried to make it to a sailboat to save two people who were stuck out at sea in Key West. Although everyone was rescued safe and sound, something got left behind.

“We weren’t sure what it was from a distance,” said captain Carlos Escarra, with Gone Fishin’ Charters.

Escarra and Meaghan Blackman from Nautical Life Shelling Tours came across important rescue gear on Morgan Island, south of Marco Island.

“We walked up to it; we noticed the raft was full of water beached; all the lines were tangled on roots, and it had diver’s masks and fins inside of the raft,” Escarra said.

“We couldn’t leave this here,” Blackman said. “We have to pick this up between the turtles and how buried it would get.”

The two boaters removed the raft after calling Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission to make sure it was OK.

“There had to be a story behind this raft,” Escarra said. “It just doesn’t appear on the beach.”

But they wanted to know where the raft came from.

“We figured Tropical Storm Sally could be the reason of the raft,” Escarra said. “We Googled the manufacturer of the raft, and we found it it’s used by the United States Coat Guard and is usually dropped from the helicopter.”

They called the Coast Guard and say it was used in the successful mission in Key West and floated to our coast. They were very appreciative because it means a lot to them to have their raft back and serviced

“We’re happy that we did our part to make sure they got it back to use it on rescue missions,” Escarra said.

The captains say the U.S. Coast Guard will come and pick up the raft and the gear Tuesday morning.

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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