Florida Keys

Two teens help save family carrying an infant and clinging to a capsized boat

A U.S. Coast Guard crew approaches a man sitting on a capsized boat off Islamorada on Saturday, April 7, 2018.
A U.S. Coast Guard crew approaches a man sitting on a capsized boat off Islamorada on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Two Islamorada teens and the uncle of one of the boys saved two families, including a mother and her small children, who were stranded in choppy ocean waters off the Keys.

Mason Baker, 17, Will Coffin, 18, and Coffin’s uncle, Dave Tolhurst, 54, spotted an overturned 23-foot boat while fishing near Conch Reef, southeast of Plantation Key, on Saturday afternoon. Four adults and a 4-year-old boy were clinging to the capsized hull of the vessel. Strapped to the chest of one of the two women in the group was a 3  1/2-month-old infant boy.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Baker said Tuesday. “We realized something bad could have happened, and it might not end well.”

Before reaching the disabled craft, Tolhurst and the boys radioed the Coast Guard for help. After reaching the boat, they pulled the mother and her children aboard. The captain of the boat decided to stay with his vessel until the Coast Guard arrived, Baker said.

Will Coffin
Will Coffin Photo by Mason Baker

Another woman began swimming toward Tolhurst’s vessel, but turned around to help her male companion, who was having trouble swimming in the rough water.

A Coast Guard crew arrived and took the mother, the boat’s operator and the children on board their vessel. Tolhurst gathered three coolers full of food from the capsized boat that were floating nearby and took the other couple to the Tavernier Creek Marina and met the Coast Guard crew there.

The Coast Guard crew, from Station Islamorada, brought the baby to awaiting medics at the marina to be checked for possible salt water ingestion, according to a post on the station’s Facebook page. No other injuries were reported, according to the post.

Mason Baker
Mason Baker Photo by Will Coffin

Baker said conditions on the water were windier than expected Saturday. The people he, Coffin and Tolhurst rescued told them they anchored off the bow of their vessel and quickly began to take on water. They tried pulling the anchor, but the boat capsized before they could even make a Mayday call.

“It happened so fast,” Baker said. “Before they could, it flipped over.”

The names of the people on the capsized boat were not immediately known, but Baker said they were from Miami-Dade County and Melbourne.

Both Baker and Coffin are seniors at Coral Shores High School in Tavernier and are headed to Florida Atlantic University in August. Mason’s mom, Jill Miranda-Baker, said that while she’s impressed by what her son and Coffin did on the water, she’s not surprised.

“Mason is a pretty humble and low-key kid, as is Will,” Miranda-Baker said. “They never panicked and handled the rescue like it was just any other day on the water. As a parent, I am immensely proud.”