A stranded spear fisher was pulled from volatile waters in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday, as the U.S. Coast Guard carried out a remarkable rescue in the midst of Tropical Storm Earl.
The fisher, identified as a 50-year-old man, was injured and holding onto rocks near Dog Island as six-foot waves crashed around him, the Coast Guard said in a news release. He had steered a 26-foot boat to the area early Sunday and later sent a distress signal to a friend, who relayed it to an emergency dispatch operator in St. Thomas around 8:30 a.m., according to the agency.
Rescue teams arrived at the scene in a boat and helicopter, the Coast Guard said. The boat crew initially attempted to reel in the fisher using a heavy line, but was unsuccessful because storm waves prevented the vessel from reaching him. A helicopter then flew overhead as a swimmer descended down to the rocks to retrieve the injured fisher, and both were ultimately lifted to safety by a harness that pulled them back up to the aircraft.
The Coast Guard shared a video of the moment on Twitter over the weekend, aptly calling it an “impressive” rescue.
Tropical Storm Earl poured heavy rain over the northeastern Caribbean on Sunday, hitting Puerto Rico as well as the Leeward Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands, according to the Associated Press. Two people using jet skis in Puerto Rico on Sunday as lightning struck the water during the storm.
Earl is projected to intensify this week, after traveling north from St. Thomas on Monday with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. In an advisory posted Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center described Earl as “a bit disheveled” and warned that the storm is expected to strengthen into a hurricane over the next couple of days.