The United States Coast Guard (USCG) rescued two commercial fishermen late last week as their boat went down in the Pamlico Sound, five miles off the coast of North Carolina. The dramatic rescue effort was captured in video footage that shows Coast Guard personnel tossing ropes and a buoy to the men before they leap from their sinking vessel into the frigid waters. Both men were transported to the Coast Guard Station at Hatteras Inlet, and no injuries were reported. 

According to a Coast Guard press release, the agency received a call for help at around 2 a.m. on November 17. The caller indicated that his 35-foot fishing vessel was “taking on water.” The Coast Guard responded by sending a 47-foot lifeboat to the scene.

Upon arrival, the Coast Guard crew passed an emergency pump to the fishermen, who were unable to operate it. One of the Coast Guard officials then boarded the sinking boat to demonstrate how to prime the pump before returning to the rescue vessel. 

A short while later, the fishing boat began sinking by the stern, forcing the two fishermen to abandon ship. The video shows the rescue crew tossing a rope to the men, who grabbed tight as their vessel quickly goes under. The men released the rope as they dodged floating items from the boat and scramble to avoid the rigging that fell around them. 

One of the men slipped out of his life jacket and momentarily went underwater before resurfacing, swimming over to the Coast Guard vessel, and grabbing another rope. The fishing boat sank, despite efforts to save it.

“The maritime environment is often unpredictable and preparedness is crucial,” said Stephen Sawyer, Sector North Carolina’s command duty officer. “We recommend commercial fishing vessels contact their local Coast Guard commercial fishing safety examiner for a comprehensive safety exam, have a reliable means of communication, and always wear a life jacket.”

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The lowest reading of the water temperature on the Pamlico Sound on the morning of November 17 was 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, exhaustion, unconsciousness, and early stages of hypothermia can set in after an hour, according to the USCG. Thanks to the fast-acting Coast Guard personnel, the men in the video were out of the water in less than two minutes.