Missing Boat Found with One Man Clinging to Side

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

A missing man found clinging to an overturned boat was rescued Monday off Florida's Gulf Coast, but the search continued for two NFL players and a third man aboard who didn't return from a weekend fishing trip.

Survivor Nick Schuyler, a former University of South Florida
player, told rescuers that the 21-foot boat was anchored when it
flipped Saturday evening in rough seas and that the others got
separated from the boat, Capt. Timothy M. Close said. Since then,
Schuyler, who was wearing a life vest, had been hanging onto the
boat found by a Coast Guard cutter 35 miles off Clearwater.

The boat belongs to Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper,
who along with free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former
South Florida player William Bleakley, remained missing. The search area is now "substantially smaller," based on where
they found the boat and Schuyler, Close said. Searchers had
previously covered 16,000 square miles of ocean, and the Coast
Guard said it did not receive a distress signal.

Coast Guard photos showed Schuyler wearing a yellow jacket and
orange life vest and sitting on the hull of the capsized boat as a
rescue cutter approached. A helicopter lowered a basket to haul him
aboard.

Schuyler was conscious but appeared weak as he was being taken
off a helicopter at Tampa General Hospital and placed on a
stretcher. His father said his son was in serious but stable
condition and that he "looks OK."

"He's got some cuts and bruises. He's dehydrated," said Stuart
Schuyler.

Schuyler's mother, Marsha Schuyler, said her son told her that
he survived by thinking about how he didn't want her to go to his
funeral.

The family's joy at him being found alive was tempered by the
search for his friends.

"We still have three men missing, and we're not going to talk
too much until we find these guys," said his father, Stuart
Schuyler. "We're all praying for them. These guys are all very
close friends."

Close said the Coast Guard would search for the men for "quite
awhile."

Ray Sanchez of Tampa, a cousin of Cooper, said he was told the
men were together "for a good period of time" after the boat
flipped. He said the family was confident the Coast Guard would
find them.

"My cousin's a powerful swimmer," he said.

The water temperature in the area was 68 degrees. After 18 hours
in 64-degree water, hypothermia will set in, said Coast Guard Petty
Officer 2nd Class James Harless. How long someone can survive
depends on how big the person is, he said. Cooper is 6-foot-3, 230
pounds, and Smith, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds.

The four friends left Clearwater Pass early Saturday in calm
weather, but heavy winds picked up through the day and the seas got
heavy, with waves of 7 feet and higher, peaking at 15 feet on
Sunday. A relative alerted the Coast Guard early Sunday after the
men did not return as expected.

The men were aboard an Everglades-manufactured boat, which is
built with compressed foam encased in Fiberglas, making it
difficult to sink. The weather had improved, with waves subsiding
to 6 to 8 feet, National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Barron
said.

However, Bob Zales, president of National Association of Charter
Boat Operators, said waves that high can capsize a boat the size of
Cooper's.

"A boat that size, personally, I wouldn't get out any farther
than 20 or 30 miles offshore," Zales said. "But I see people all
the time 40, 50 miles offshore."

Cooper and Smith, who were teammates with the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers in 2004, have been on fishing trips before, according to
Ron Del Duca, Smith's agent.

The 29-year-old Smith of Richmond, Va., had 30 tackles,
including three sacks, and an interception in 12 games last season
for the Detroit Lions. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers
and was a standout at North Carolina State.

Cooper, 26, played college ball at Washington, and has spent
five seasons with five different teams, appearing in 26 games with
the Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005. He's played sparingly since. He
grew up in Gilbert, Ariz., and his father Bruce is a prominent
sportscaster for KPNX-TV in Phoenix.


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