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Miscommunication leads to overnight Coast Guard search for 2 adults, 5 children

1:07 PM, Jan 8, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. -- A Coast Guard search for two adults and five children was deemed unnecessary, avoidable and needlessly endangered responders, according to a Coast Guard press release.

The search began Friday night and continued until early Monday morning the release said.  Coast Guard boat and air crews, the Casselberry, Fla., police, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Volusia County rescue crews were involved in the search effort.

The search was triggered when parents of 12 and 14-year-old siblings contacted the Casselberry police.  The parents called because their children went on a multi-day trip with a family of five on their 20-foot pontoon boat.  The parents expected the family to return Friday night but they did not.

When Casselberry police contacted the neighbor of the family, that person told them the family was not supposed to come home until Sunday, the release said.

When the family failed to return Sunday night, the release said Casselberry police contacted the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater launched an aircrew and Coast Guard Station Ponce de Leon Inlet in New Smyrna Beach launched a boat crew aboard a 24-foot Special Purpose Craft.  The FWC and Volusia County Sheriff's Office also aided in the search.

The release said after multiple failed attempts to reach the family, they finally answered Coast Guard radio communications around 7:30 Monday morning.  When they did, they reported they were not in distress and had not planned to return until Monday afternoon, according to the release.

The Coast Guard said the complex land, air and sea search involving multiple agencies and assets could have been avoided had the boaters filed a float plan.

Lt. Grant Johnson of Coast Guard Jacksonville said, "This search was completely unnecessary and needlessly put responders at risk for people who were never actually in danger or overdue.  Additionally, resources that were searching for this group may not have been available to respond to another emergency at the same time.  We can't stress enough how important it is for boaters to leave clear plans and information with friends or relatives who will not be accompanying them underway."

Float plans provide detailed information about boaters' plans, the Coast Guard said.  This includes departure and return times and locations.  The plan also has what to do if the boaters become overdue.

Float plans can be downloaded for free and printed at http://www.floatplancentral.org/.

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