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Saturday, March 26, 2011

NEWS & POLITICS- Elderly Man and His Dog Rescued off Coast of Mexico


(ENSENADA, Mexico) -- A 77-year-old man and his dog are safe after being stranded several days in high seas off the Mexican coast.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the man and dog from a disabled sailboat about 120 miles off the coast of Ensenada in Baja California Monday.

Shortly after 1 p.m., amateur HAM radio operator Rex Weinheimer picked up a mayday call over a HAM maritime network in Stonewall,Texas, near Austin.

"I heard someone calling, but I couldn't make it all out," Weinheimer told ABC News. "The communications were so horrible that I could not tell the mental state or anything. The signal would come up then drop out."

After 10 minutes of disrupted communication, he determined one person was aboard the disabled vessel. Weinheimer said he also gathered that the boat was floating at sea in rough weather with broken sails and lines.

A commercial freighter, about an hour from the sailboat at the time of the call, was the first to make an attempted rescue, but rough seas prevented the freighter from getting close enough to the sailboat.

The HAM operator notified the U.S. Coast Guard, who dispatched a MH-60 Jaywhawk helicopter and a C-130 Hercules plane.

The rescue team battled 12-15 foot swells and high winds to reach the boater.

A Coast Guard swimmer eventually evacuated the man and his dog from the boat. Both remained "calm considering being hoisted up in a helicopter at hurricane force wind," according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Henry Dunphy. "The dog sat on the man's lap the whole flight back to San Diego."

Dunphy told ABC News the man, who wasn't identified, had no recollection of how many days he had been at sea. The boat had set sail from Ventura, California. Because he lacked food and supplies, the man and dog apparently had been at sea for several days, possibly headed to Tahiti, according to the rescue crew.

He was taken to a San Diego hospital for a medical examination. Dunphy says both the man and his dog were fine.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio