Three fishermen and dog airlifted from high seas off Wachapreague; boat remains adrift

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Coast Guard rescued three fishermen and a dog Saturday after their boat became disabled two miles off Wachapreague Inlet.

Crews were called to the area around 2:45 a.m. on a report that a 60-foot commercial fishing vessel named Storm was soft aground near Wachapreague Inlet.

The vessel freed itself but two hours later the crew discovered serious damage to the rudder, along with flooding.

A Coast Guard crew launched from Station Chincoteague at 4:47 a.m. and headed toward the scene in 12-15 foot seas, arriving at 8:18 a.m.

The crew found Storm adrift with no way to steer. A tow was not possible due to the deck configuration of the fishing boat and the sea state.

The crew aboard Storm attempted to anchor the vessel to prevent it from drifting but were not successful due to the heavy weather.

By this time, the heavy seas made it too dangerous for a direct transfer of people between vessels.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew launched from Air Station Elizabeth City at 12:23 p.m. to assist.

The aircrew arrived on scene at 1:02 p.m. and hoisted all three people and the dog to the helicopter by 1:58 p.m. They were flown to Richmond International Airport.

Fishing vessel Storm remains unmanned and adrift with an activated EPIRB aboard and all navigational lights energized.

"Complicated heavy weather events like Post Tropical Storm Hermine require difficult decisions, and in this case, the captain and crew decided to abandon the vessel, possibly saving their lives," said Capt. Rick Wester, Commander, Sector Hampton Roads. "We're very glad we were able to return them to safety and that they are doing well."

The Coast Guard is issuing an hourly broadcast notice to mariners to alert them of the drifting vessel and will continue to track its location.

Fishing vessel Storm holds approximately 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel.