The US Coast Guard, Navy and British Royal Navy crews were searching on Sep 21, 2017, for the “Ferrel” that went missing near Vieques, Puerto Rico, on Sep 20, in the hurricane Maria. The ship with two adults and two children, had lost communications with Coast Guard watch standers. The Coast Guard District Seven watch standers initially received an alert via emergency position indicating radio beacon and then a distress call at 11.30 a.m. from the “Ferrel” stating they were disabled and adrift in six meter-waves and 100-knot winds.
The Coast Guard lost contact with the vessel due to weather. An urgent marine information broadcast was issued immediately after the distress call. Coast Guard, Navy and British Royal Navy crews were conducting search operations with the following crews: – A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules airplane – A Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter – The USS Kearsarge – A Navy MH-60 helicopter – The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay with an SAR helicopter and an embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team 101.
In the early hours of the morning a Wildcat helicopter from RFA “Mounts Bay” spotted an upturned hull, debris, and a life raft in the water, 50 miles from the spot of the initial distress call. Three people were then seen clambering up on top of the capsized hull and waved for help. They were winched on to the Wildcat and flown to RFA “Mounts Bay” where they were treated for minor injuries, before being returned to Tortola. They were a 48-year-old Dominican woman and her two 12-year-old children. The fourth person aboard, the father, died and could not yet be recovered from the capsized wreck.
The family had set sail from Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, which was battered by Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago, and was trying to reach St Lucia. The “Ferrel” was a former survey ship sued by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It had been decommissioned in 2002 and recently converted into a pleasure boat.