NOAA 99-R805
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


Through a combination of sharp eyes, vigilance and sheer luck, three mariners
clinging to their capsized motor boat were plucked out of stormy seas Sunday by crew members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries research ship Oregon II, NOAA said today. The mariners -- who had been unable to send a distress signal -- had been in the water for about five hours, and probably would have perished if the ship hadn't passed nearby and seen them.

Oregon II was 25 miles out to sea off Cape Canaveral heading toward the ship's
home port in Pascagoula, Miss., when the two men and one woman were spotted. Their 25-ft. recreational boat had capsized in six to eight-foot seas, and as there was no distress signal sent, it was by chance that the Oregon II came close enough to see and rescue them.

"I'm glad we were in the area, because these folks were in dire straights.
They were experiencing every mariner's worst nightmare," said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Thompson, NOAA Corps, commanding officer of Oregon II. "I'm proud of my crew and how they responded to the emergency. Lt. Cmdr. Mike Gallagher, NOAA Corps; Lead Fisherman Dave Nelson; and Fisherman Gerald Koonce went out in a small rubber boat in extremely rough seas and high winds, and pulled the three out of the water. We treated them onboard the Oregon II for mild hypothermia and small lacerations and they are all right now, but there's no doubt in my mind that had Oregon II not been there, these people may have perished at sea. They couldn't have lasted much longer."

Oregon II notified the Coast Guard of the rescue, and transferred the mariners
to a Coast Guard cutter approximately an hour later.

The mariners were Dale Woodburn and Richard McKinnon of Roseland and Stacey Marinelli of Sebastian.

As part of the NOAA fleet of research ships and aircraft, Oregon II is operated and managed by civilians and officers of the Office of NOAA Corps Operations, the nation's seventh uniformed service. NOAA Corps officers -- all scientists and engineers -- rotate throughout the agency, supporting NOAA's programs at sea, on shore, and in the air.