Two divers reported missing off Sanibel for approximately three hours last Thursday were recovered safely by a U.S. Coast Guard rescue squad, Sanibel Fire Rescue District Assistant Chief Matt Scott said.
According to officials, two men and one woman set out on a diving excursion early Thursday afternoon. Once they arrived at their desired location off the eastern tip of Sanibel, they dropped anchor. While both men engaged in diving, the woman remained aboard the boat.
"The anchor didn't weigh enough to hold the boat," said Edward Chaulk of the U.S. Coast Guard's Fort Myers Beach Station, who speculated that strong currents dragged the anchor along the floor of the Gulf.
When the two divers resurfaced, their boat was nowhere in sight.
Shortly after 4 p.m., a distress call was placed to the U.S. Coast Guard, who immediately dispatched a vessel to the region. Chaulk reported that the woman told rescuers that her husband and a friend had been under the water for approximately 90 minutes. When she saw no signs of the men, she called for help.
Once the Coast Guard arrived on site, a call for search and rescue support went out to local agencies.
"We put our boat in the water around 4:15 p.m. at the City Boat Ramp," Scott said.
In addition to the Coast Guard and Sanibel Fire Rescue District, responding agencies included Iona-McGregor Fire Rescue, Bonita Springs Fire Department and the Lee County Sheriff's Office.
Around 5:30 p.m., the two divers - who had been missing for nearly three hours - were spotted in waters 6.2 miles south of the Sanibel Lighthouse by a rescue plane operated by the Sheriff's Office. They were found more than 1.5 miles from where their boat had drifted from. Both men were pulled from the water around 5:50 p.m.
The rescued divers, neither of whom were injured during their ordeal, were transported to the Coast Guard Station on Fort Myers Beach, where they were examined and released.
"It's always great news when a rescue is successful," added Scott, whose department ironically had been conducting water rescue drills in the Gulf earlier in the day.
Coast Guard rescuers also reported that they receive similar calls all the time - and most of them could have been prevented.
"Just prepare yourself," said Chaulk. "Make sure you have all of your equipment... and the right equipment."