Father, son thank Coast Guard for May water rescue near Port Canaveral

Coast Guard says personal locator beacon helped save their lives

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – A father and his two sons saved by the U.S. Coast Guard earlier this year got a chance to thank their rescuers Friday at the Coast Guard Air Station Miami.

"We didn't know they didn't see us," Geoff Varell said, recalling the day in May that he, his two sons and a family friend were rescued, though not right away. "We thought they had seen us, so were overjoyed."

Lt. Greg Snow, who was a member of the Coast Guard helicopter crew that found the family, remembers not seeing Varell and the others at first.

"We may have flown over them four or five times before we initially spotted them," Snow said.

Varell, his sons, ages 7 and 9, and a family friend were plucked from the ocean off Port Canaveral in May after their fishing boat started taking on water.

"We tried to shift weight and put everybody up front, and when we went up front, the boat rolled and water came in over the right side of the boat," Varell said.

That's when Varell decided to abandon the boat. They spent more than two hours in the water before the Coast Guard found them.

"Obviously, fear sets in," Varell said. "My friend had my oldest son, and I had my little son. It becomes about the kids."

Snow said a personal locator beacon is what ultimately led the Coast Guard to find them.

The boat was never recovered, but Varell is just thankful that he and his sons were OK.

"I can't thank the Coast Guard enough ... (they were) just overly professional throughout the entire process," Varell said.

About the Author: