Clearwater Coast Guard rescues family during Hurricane Maria

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A mother and her two 12-year-old kids in Puerto Rico are alive after a ship they were on flipped in Hurricane Maria’s whipping winds. They survived thanks to an amazing team of rescuers, including some from Clearwater.

The Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater assisted in the search and rescue Wednesday in winds blasting their plane at 155 miles per hour. 

In a video taken by the Coast Guard, you can see the woman and her two 12-year-old kids standing on top of an upside down boat waving their arms for help. 

Darryn Manley, a US Coast Guard Aviation Technician based in Clearwater was the first to spot the family.

“To see them on top of the boat waving us down; that was a unique experience for me and this is my job,” he explained. “All of it was astronomical luck. To find them so fast, right at the location. 

The mom and kids were trapped in the vessel near Vieques, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria toppled their boat. The enormous waves were 20 feet tall and the wind was whipping at 115 miles per hour. “You could feel it in the plane. We were bouncing away. It’s hard to keep a camera locked in position. Not good conditions for anybody,” Manley added.

The rescue team in a chopper hoisted themselves down to the boat, then pulled up the children and mother.  The children’s father was trapped in the boat and didn’t survive, according to Coast Guard Leaders.

Manley says it’s a miracle the mom and kids did survive and it’s something he’ll never forget.

“Absolutely not, I’ll remember this forever,” he said.

The mother and 12-year-old children are expected to be okay. It’s still not clear why the family was on their boat in Puerto Rico in the middle of Hurricane Maria, but Coast Guard members tell us the emergency distress signal on their boat saved their lives and was the only reason they found them in the middle of such a severe storm. 

The Royal Navy also assisted in the dramatic rescue. 

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