Florida Keys

Three teens rescued from capsized vessel off the Keys

Three teenagers from Orange County, Calif., await rescue on their rented boat off Little Torch Key.
Three teenagers from Orange County, Calif., await rescue on their rented boat off Little Torch Key.

A Florida Keys marine deputy rescued three teenage boys from a rented boat that had capsized about 2 1/2 miles offshore of Little Torch Key from taking on water, police said.

Zack Sowder, 18, Jacob Sowder, 16, and Brent Shishido, 18, all of Orange County, California, managed to climb on top of the 22-foot-long vessel’s overturned hull and call 911 on a cellphone on Tuesday, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin.

As all three sat on the hull, Marine Deputy James Hager found the boys and pulled each to safety.

In provided photos, none of the three are seen wearing a life jacket.

“Life jackets were trapped under the boat,” according to a Facebook post by the Monroe Sheriff’s Office. “Fortunately they knew their rough location. They were lucky they had a cell signal.”

One of the rescued teens maintained his sense of humor after the brush with danger.

“Make sure your bilge works before you run five miles offshore and realize it’s too late,” Zack Sowder tweeted Tuesday night, along with two photos of the incident. “Other than that great day on the water.”

The teens’ boat had been anchored on the oceanside where the depths reach 30 feet when it began taking on water.

“By the time they got the anchor line cut, the boat had taken on too much water and capsized,” Herrin said.

Hager, who had just pulled his patrol boat out of the water and had finished cleaning it, got the call over the police radio at about 3:15 p.m.

“He quickly put the boat back in the water,” Herrin said.

Hager took off with David Bingham, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator who was with him, and responded to the reported location.

“They spent some time looking, but they found the three boys and loaded them on board the patrol boat, bringing them safely back to shore,” Herrin said in statement Tuesday evening.

The Florida Keys and Broward County were the deadliest spots in Florida for boating-related deaths in 2015, with five reported in each county, according to a report released by FWC earlier this year.

Statewide, the number of 2015 boating deaths declined to 55, nearly a 25 percent drop from the 73 in 2014. More than half of the 55 deaths were attributed to drowning.

Dive or snorkel deaths do not count toward the boating statistics.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen