SARASOTA BAY – Five boaters whose 16-foot canoe overturned in Sarasota Bay are safe and sound after a passing charter boat captain pulled them from the 55-degree water Sunday, Jan. 7.
Holmes Beach Capt. Taylor Rahn was leading a charter trip that morning near the Sister Keys with two fishermen aboard when he saw something in the water that he could not identify.
The air temperature at the time was in the mid-40s with strong, gusting winds of more than 20 mph creating cold, choppy conditions.
As a result, there were very few fishing charters or pleasure boaters out.
“We were the only boat in the water when we heard someone yelling,” Rahn said, “and I spotted a man waving an oar. When we got to them, there were two men and three young boys in the water near their canoe, and they were crying and yelling and clearly suffering from hypothermia.”
Rahn said he and his two passengers got the five people into his boat and he called 911.
“The youngest boy was having a problem staying conscious, and I told the operator I was heading for Cannon’s Marina,” he said. “When we got there, they had three helicopters to take them to the hospital plus EMTs, the Sheriff’s Office and some other responders.”
The group then was flown to a local hospital for treatment, authorities said. The names of the five people have not been released.
Authorities said Rahn almost certainly saved the lives of some, if not all, of the five boaters.
“With the water temperature in the 60s, they would not have lasted much longer,” said Longboat Key EMT liaison Tina Adams.
Rahn said one of the men told him they had been floating for about an hour in the cold water, and they were so weak, they could not lift themselves into his 24-foot center console boat.
A fishing captain for “six or seven years,” Rahn said he’d never had anything like this happen before.
“My mother told me I’d saved five people from dying,” he said. “They expressed their gratitude and said they felt someone was watching over them.”
Rahn spoke with one of the men Monday, and he said they had been released from the hospital and were feeling much better.
Rahn said he would like to make sure the kids don’t have bad memories about boating.
“I would like to take them all out fishing,” he said. “I don’t want the kids to have negative thoughts about fishing. Fishing’s supposed to be fun.”