SEATTLE — The Coast Guard said Sunday it rescued a severely hypothermic man clinging to his partially submerged life raft off Washington state's northwestern tip after his boat caught fire and he abandoned it.
The man had been on the raft for nearly an hour when an agency helicopter hoisted him up around noon and transported him to a hospital. Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer says she didn't know his condition, but he was able to walk into the facility.
The agency released a photo showing the 25-foot vessel engulfed in flames after its engine caught fire 3 miles north of Neah Bay. It was not yet known what caused the fire on the boat, which split in half and sank.
The boat's operator sent a distress call around 11 a.m., saying he was abandoning ship.
Crews in the helicopter and a 25-foot boat responded, arriving in the area of the call around 11:50 a.m. The search was complicated by heavy fog, a malfunctioning GPS on the life raft and the man's flares that fired incorrectly.
The signal from the man's handheld radio helped rescuers find him. The radio and raft "likely saved his life," officials said.
"The extensive search area and difficult conditions we encountered would have made locating him nearly impossible had we not been able to hone in on his radio transmission," Lt. Cmdr. Edward Geraghty said.
The Coast Guard says the sunken boat was not expected to be a risk to navigation and likely was not a great environmental threat, though the agency will monitor it. Crews also recovered the life raft.