4 fishermen missing off Texas coast; 1 other rescued

April 20, 2013 at 6:48 PM
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GALVESTON, Texas, April 20 (UPI) -- The search for four commercial fishermen missing in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas Saturday was fruitless, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

One other crew member, John Reynolds, 56, of Gaston, Ala., was found alive clinging to a life raft and was plucked to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter shortly before dawn Friday, the Houston Chronicle reported. Reynolds spent about 2 hours in the water after the crew's 50-foot boat, the Nite Owl, sank in choppy waters about 115 miles southeast of Galveston, the newspaper said.

An extensive air and water search failed to locate the other four crew members.

"So far we've covered about 1,800 square miles, about 300 miles larger than the state of Rhode Island," Petty Officer Richard Brahm said early Saturday.

The search was expected to go on into the night.

The boat's owner, Larry Moore of Golden Meadow, La., said he had learned the crew had tied up to an oil platform Thursday night to ride out a storm, only to be done in by a powerful wave that sent the crew men into the sea, the Chronicle said.

"A rogue wave tore the wheelhouse and canopy off the boat," Moore said Saturday. "Everyone was asleep when it happened."

Reynolds said he and the other crew members clung to debris for several minutes and then he spotted the raft about 20 feet away. He said he told them he was going to swim for it and urged them to do likewise.

"I believe one of them tried to follow me, but another was too scared to let go [of the debris]," he said.

Reynolds fired a flare when a Coast Guard aircraft passed overhead. The jet's crew spotted the light and dispatched a helicopter.

"I want to say how good a job they did getting me out of the water," he said. "It was a terrible ordeal."

Moore said the boat was captain by Charles Patrick of Seattle, a close friend who had been sailing the boat for about two years.

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