Coast Guard suspends search for 6 people missing in Gulf

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KHOU.com

Posted on May 22, 2012 at 4:00 PM

GALVESTON — The Coast Guard suspended its search Tuesday for six people reported missing in the Gulf of Mexico after a mayday radio call said they were abandoning their sinking fishing boat in the waters off Galveston.

Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston received a distress call from the captain of the vessel around 1:15 p.m. Sunday saying the boat was about 2.2 miles off the entrance of the Galveston Ship Channel and taking on water, so the six people on board were abandoning ship and getting into an orange life raft.

Because of the poor quality of the radio transmission, the name of the vessel was difficult for watchstanders to interpret. They believed it was either "Scallywag" or "Skylark."

Multiple Coast Guard crews — including two 25-foot response boats, one 45-foot response boat, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, an HU-25 Guardian aircraft, the Coast Guard Cutter Heron and the Coast Guard Cutter Skipjack — were dispatched to search for missing persons, but still came up empty.

“We didn’t find any debris, any vessel, no other pending information after reaching out to the public," said Commander Richard Howes, USCG Houston. "We feel that right now, putting more resources out there would not help us."

The Coast Guard conducted 21 searches, utilizing 10 surface and air assets covering 2,855 square miles — an area larger than the state of Delaware.

“There was nothing odd; it was a mayday call, and we treat everything the same. But what was different about it is the guy knew enough to call Channel 11 VTS-Houston as opposed to Channel 16, which is international distress," Howe explained. "He obviously knew who to call, and he said he was abandoning in a life raft with six people, and so from our perspective, it was a bonafide SAR case, but the fact that we couldn’t find anything makes it a little bit different.”

What was somewhat odd to officials was the fact that no family members have called looking for any of the missing boaters.

Anyone who is familiar with the vessel is asked to call 713-678-9011.

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