U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. gives insight on Alligator Point search

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 22, 2019

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Corrie Sergent joined WCTV's 4 p.m. newscast to provide context as to how mariners approach searching for missing people after a boat sinks.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — As the search continues for a missing boater off the coast of Alligator Point, an official from the U.S. Coast Guard spoke to WCTV to give us an idea of how they approach these difficult situations.

Here are some of the questions U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Corrie Sergent answered for us.

Editor's note: This interview took place over the phone at 3 p.m. Tuesday

Q: Can you please give us the very latest on what the Coast Guard knows about the search this afternoon?

A: Right now, we are going on 44 hours on scene searching. We have completed 33 total search patterns, with all of our resources via water and air. We have a 1,620 square nautical mile search area near Alligator Point, Florida.

Q: You mentioned search patterns -- What does the Coast Guard consider when making these patterns?

A: We received a report Sunday evening of a partially submerged 49-foot vessel four miles from Alligator Point, Florida. We have models with the Coast Guard that we use during search and rescue cases and they take into account weather, seas, the search objects, which in this case we are searching for a person in the water, and it takes into account all of those drivers and it develops a search plan for us, based on where thousands of particles would have gone with all of that on scene.

Q: How unique is this mission?

A: This search and rescue mission is what the Coast Guard was built for. It's absolutely unique, and we are uniquely trained to respond to these cases.

Q: How can a typical boater avoid disasters?

A: One of the main things is to have a float plan: Tell somebody where you're going all along the way. Have a communications plan for when you'll be checking in with them. And then have the appropriate safety equipment on board. It can't always prevent these situation but it'll help mariners who become distressed at sea.

Q: What from the case so far has helped in this particular search?

A: I would say the survivor has been the most helpful, because he could give us what happened about the time it happened. We also did have cell phone forensics that let us know about the time where we had planned when the vessel went into distress on Sunday evening. And we also have been talking to the family of the missing person, and she had been following their transit along the way, again, until they went into distress.

Q: How are the families reacting to this?

A: Well, as you can imagine, these situations are tragic. It's minute-by-minute, but at this point we are using every resource we can to locate a survivor.

Q: What's next for the search? At what point does it become a recovery effort?

A: The facts of every case are very different, so I can't speculate on the determination to end the search by any means. But like I said, we are currently searching with every resource we have available in this area, and we are looking for a survivor.

Q: Lieutenant Commander, is there anything else you'd like to add?

A: I just want to say our condolences are with the loved ones of the deceased that we recovered yesterday. And again, we are doing everything we can, and we will continue as long as we can, to search for the missing person and bring him home to his family.

Copyright 2019 WCTV. All rights reserved.