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Four Rescued, One Missing Following Boat Capsizing

Gulf Islands National Seashore

National Park News

Late on the evening of Sunday, May 17th, family members reported a boat overdue from a recreational trip to Horn Island, which is located within the park’s Mississippi District. The vessel, a 20-foot motorboat, had five people on board, including three off-duty Ocean Springs PD officers, a spouse, and a girlfriend. Ocean Springs PD is one of the district’s closest cooperating agencies. The area experienced strong thunderstorms and rough seas that day. A multi-agency search by air and boat was begun at first light on May 18th. The crew of a helicopter soon spotted the missing vessel, which was capsized off the west tip of Horn Island in park waters. None of the occupants were near the boat. While the Coast Guard and other agencies focused on searching the sea, a dozen NPS personnel searched the six islands in the area, all within park boundaries. Early on Monday afternoon, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted and rescued four survivors wearing lifejackets within a couple of miles of one another about four miles south of the NPS islands and more than ten miles from where the capsized boat was found. They were flown to a hospital in Gulfport. It is not certain at this time whether the fifth occupant managed to get a lifejacket on after the capsizing. NPS search efforts had to be suspended around mid-afternoon due to worsening sea conditions. Efforts yesterday were to focus on a continued search of the islands and surrounding shallow waters for the missing officer.  Plans were to commit about a dozen park staff and another six to eight personnel from Ocean Springs PD to that search. District ranger Robert Harris is the NPS IC. Rangers will join the accident investigation efforts of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources if the accident is determined to have occurred in park waters.


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