ECHOLS CO., GA (WALB) - Video from the U.S. Coast Guard in Clearwater, Florida showed the rescue of Echols County Schools Superintendent Tim Ragan and his two friends on December 30th.
They had taken their boat 23 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico West of the Steinhatchee River to scout out fishing spots.
But shortly after they got their, Ragan noticed something was wrong."I said, 'this boat's heavy in the back.' Lifted up the back hatch and water at that time was solid across the bottom. Had an extra bilge pump; got it hooked on," explained Ragan.
The three friends began trying to bail out the water with buckets, but they couldn't keep up with the water coming in. After about 15 minutes, they realized that it was too late. "At that time, we realized that we were goin' down and we quit what we were doin'. I got on the radio and contacted the Coast Guard," said Ragan.
The Coast Guard in Mobile responded first, but their radio communication kept breaking up so the Coast Guard transferred the call to the station in Clearwater. About 45 minutes after establishing communication with the station in Clearwater, a C-130 cargo plane from the station flew over and marked their location with a smoke bomb and dropped a life raft for them.
"He dropped the smoke bomb in the water. Once the smoke bomb hit the water, we realized that these guys knew where we were," Ragan recalled.
About 45 minutes after that, the rescue helicopter arrived. "Just like you see on TV," Ragan explained, "the helicopter hovers, the frog man goes in the water, swims up to us, puts his arm on the life raft and says 'are you guys okay?'"
In all, the three friends were in the water for about two hours by the time they were rescued.
All three friends made it back safe and sound. The boat was recovered and was being repaired as of Wednesday. Ragan said he is extremely thankful for the U.S. Coast Guard and for the support his community has shown him and his friends.