A Coast Guard helicopter. Courtesy Department of Defense
A Coast Guard helicopter. Courtesy Department of Defense

The U.S. Coast Guard Friday rescued a diver who was stranded for more than 40 hours on the back side of Catalina Island after his boat drifted off.

“He attempted to swim after the vessel and realized it was best to swim to shore,” an official said. “He made it to shore around 2 p.m. Wednesday, and had zero contact with anyone since. He reportedly had spelled out S-O-S with debris and shot off two flares with no visibility.”

The Coast Guard received a call at 10:45 p.m. Thursday reporting that a person aboard a 38-foot sailing vessel had departed Dana Point at 7 a.m. Wednesday and was headed to Catalina Island to dive but hadn’t been heard from.

A helicopter crew and a search boat set out to look for the 50-year-old man about 6 a.m., and spotted him about an hour later, said SondraKay Kneen of the Coast Guard.

“The helicopter crew located the individual on the back side of Catalina Island wearing a black dive suit and waving an orange life jacket,” Kneen said. “A Coast Guard rescue swimmer was lowered, and the individual was safely hoisted and taken to Hoag Hospital in Irvine.”

The man, whose name was withheld, was reported to be experiencing symptoms of hypothermia and dehydration, Kneen said.

“The diver reported to the rescue crew that he anchored his vessel Wednesday afternoon and, after coming up from his second dive, his vessel had drifted out to sea,” Kneen said.

Kneen reminded divers to follow these basic safety tips:

— always dive with a partner in close proximity;

— plan your dive, and “dive that plan”;

— dive within your limits;

— look at and double-check your gauges regularly;

— test new equipment in a controlled environment;

— verify the safety of your equipment; and

— have a signaling device to communicate distress on the water.

Also, keep track of weather and water conditions, which can quickly change. Current conditions and forecasts are available at http://www.weather.gov.

And make sure to file a “float plan.”

“A float plan is simply letting family and friends know where you are going and your expected time of return,” Kneen said. “File a float plan with someone who is not getting underway with you and stick to the plan. If you change plans, contact the person.”

—City News Service

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