Coast Guard crews are searching for a missing 39-year-old diver three miles off of Key Biscayne, officials say.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Miami said they received a call at 12:18 p.m. Sunday reporting that Jeffrey Vincent, reservist from the 9th Space Operations Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, had jumped into the water without his flippers and began drifting away from the dive boat.
Authorities said Vincent was on a 27-foot boat to dive with friends. They had planned a 90-foot dive at the Princess Britney dive site about 3.5 miles off Key Biscayne.
Vincent got into the water as planned, but when he tried to grab the life line, he missed. The current pushed him away, investigators said.
One of the Vincent's friends jumped in to help but the seas were too rough. The boat's occupants kept an eye on him and circled around, eventually losing sight of the diver in high waves.
"When his buddies lost sight of him, it was only within minutes," said Alvaro Zabaleta with Miami-Dade police. "At this point, preliminarily, it looked like they did everything by the book."
About 12:15 p.m., the boat's captain hit a distress signal. The call went out over marine radio before multiple agencies responded.
Crews in a Coast Guard 33-foot rescue boat and a rescue helicopter were immediately launched to search for the missing diver, officials said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Miami-Dade Marine Patrol, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Miami-Dade Air Rescue also assisted in the search Sunday.
Vincent was reported to be wearing a full wet suit, which includes a buoyancy control device and air tank that could help his survival chances. He was not wearing fins.
"Part of the whole training to become a diver is survival and if you encounter a problem, how to deal with that, so we are holding on to that," said Zabaleta. "The waters were pretty warm last night so there are a lot of factors that are in his favor."
Anyone with further information on Vincent is asked to contact Coast Guard watchstanders at 305-415-6800.