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Canadian sailors saved by 406 EPIRB

Jul 19, 2007

Four Canadian sailors spent an anxious eight hours in their rigid-hull inflatable about 50 miles south of Bermuda after their 43-foot sailboat sank. They deployed their 406 EPIRB, an ACR Electronics GlobalFix category II, at 1000 Feb. 2, the signal of which was received by Bermudan authorities.

Rescue Co-Ordination Centre Bermuda contacted the U.S. Coast Guard in Portsmouth, Va., which deployed a C-130 from Clearwater, Fla., and soon diverted a 900-foot Liberian-flagged tanker to join the search. Weather conditions included 15- to 20-foot seas, winds at 30 knots, and a 34° to 40° F air temperature.

The C-130 crew soon found the debris field. "We were about 1,000 feet up when our spotters saw a rudder and cushions floating," said the plane's navigator, Petty Officer Mariano Zacco. "We followed the debris and did a search pattern for about two hours. We received satellite location updates every hour from their EPIRB signals, so we had directions to where they were. As we got closer our indicators kept getting louder."

It was nearly dark when the crew saw the flash of strobe lights from the dinghy. The crew dropped smoke floats every 20 minutes, and the tanker Yeoman Brook arrived several hours later. The sailors were taken aboard safely and then brought to Bermuda.

"These people did everything right," Zacco said. "They had a registered EPIRB with at least three strobe lights."  

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