Clinging to a capsized boat — a mile off the Fort Lauderdale beach in the rough and dark waters — a woman called 911 from her cell phone and guided rescue crews to the vessel.
When crews arrived, they found the woman and three other people wearing lifejackets holding on to the overturned 18-foot vessel.
One person, however, was still missing.
Two rescue divers quickly located the remaining man and brought him to shore. He was taken to Broward Health Medical Center in critical condition, said Fort Lauderdale Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Heiser.
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Heiser said a call reporting a boat in distress came in about 8:30 p.m. Fort Lauderdale’s police and fire boats responded, as did several Broward Sheriff’s Office units, the U.S. Coast Guard and the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. BSO dispatched a helicopter to help locate the boat.
With directions from the woman in the ocean, who could see the helicopter from her position, and help from their night vision goggles, crews found the boat in 16 to 20 feet of water about a mile from shore, near Rio Mar Boulevard.
It was not clear Wednesday night why the group was out on the water or what caused the boat to capsize.
But Heiser said the rescued five were lucky.
“This could have been much worse,” he said. “It’s dark, it’s rough and that makes the ocean very disorienting. It would have been extremely difficult to locate the boat without her help.”