Coast Guard Rescues PWC Operator Stranded In Bay

BERLIN — The Coast Guard this week rescued a man adrift for several hours in the Chincoteague Bay late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning after the victim’s personal watercraft (PWC) had run out of gas.

Around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, watch standers at Coast Guard Station Chincoteague received notification from the victim’s friend that Thomas Baty was overdue and possibly out of gas. Baty had gone out on his PWC in Chincoteague Bay on Tuesday when he had run out of fuel and was left adrift through much of the night and early morning hours.

“I was riding around with friends and decided to go out on my own,” Baty told Coast Guard officials. “My glasses had salt build-up, and I had confused the RPM gauge with the fuel gauge.”

The Coast Guard launched a special purpose craft carrying a shallow water boat crew, who searched the bay for nearly three hours before a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew arrived on the scene and spotted Baty. At one point, Petty Officer-3rd Class Matthew Jacobs, who was coordinating the search effort, was able to reach Baty by cell phone and was able to determine he was okay and that he had run out of gas somewhere in the bay.

“Baty didn’t know where he was,” said Jacobs. “His cell phone died before I could ask any further questions.”

After a combined search of nearly four hours, the Jayhawk helicopter crew located Baty and notified the rescue boat of his location. Because of the vast size of the search area, the rescue boat did not reach Baty’s location for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, the Coast Guard helicopter crew lowered a rescue swimmer to check on Baty’s health and provide him with a life jacket.

The rescue boat arrived on scene about 1 a.m. on Wednesday and took Baty aboard and towed his PWC into port in Chincoteague. While the rescue had a happy ending, the Coast Guard took advantage of the incident to remind PWC operators in the coastal bays and throughout the resort area of a few simple safety tips.

“The Coast Guard recommends that mariners file a float plan with friends or family and tell them where they are going and when they will be back,” said Coast Guard Lt. Jack Smith of Sector Hampton Roads. “This allows the family to call first responders at the first sign of trouble. Every minute counts when it comes to search and rescue.”