First responders rescue stranded boaters from Ponce Inlet jetty at night
Four people were rescued from the jetty in Ponce Inlet late Sunday night after their boat overturned, crashing into the rocks. One person made it safely to shore, but crews had to rescue the others.
Beach Safety Captain A.J. Miller got the call at about 10 p.m. Sunday night.
One of the people couldn't swim, though it would have been difficult for all of them in the darkness with big waves around them.
“With the rushing outgoing tide and the incoming swell in the inlet with that direction, it was actually making the waves stand up,” Miller said.
“I have no idea what condition the people on the rocks are in,” a Volusia County deputy said from their helicopter.
The sheriff's helicopter, Air 1, provided light in the dark night, and the Coast Guard was called but couldn't get close enough to the rocks to grab the swimmers. So Beach Safety's Miller brought a jet ski, and colleague Sgt. Marc Rodriguez responded, operating the ski while Miller was the rescue swimmer. You can see the rocks above the water, but you can't see underneath.
“I was able to slip out between the rocks as the water lifted to get us over some of the shallow rocks that we would otherwise have hit with our knees and our hands,” Miller said
Miller started with the woman who couldn't swim, attaching a rescue tube to her and getting her to the jet ski, then the Coast Guard boat. Then, he did it two more times to get the remaining boaters.
“The last one I got actually hugged me almost the entire way over on the jet ski. Just ‘cause they were so happy to be off,” Miller said.
The boaters were checked out at the Coast Guard station. They had some minor cuts and scrapes, but otherwise OK, and all went home safe.
“We train year-round for this. This is exactly what we do; this is why we're here to keep the visitors and residents of Volusia County beaches safe,” Miller said.
Deputies drove the boaters, who are from Palm Coast, back to their cars. They launched from a ramp in Port Orange.