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03-02-09, 07:44 PM #1
3 NFL players still missing, 1 rescued; Search continues into night
St. Petersburg, FL -- The Coast Guard continues to search for three missing boaters, lost since leaving for a fishing trip on Saturday morning.
The three men who remain missing are former Tampa Bay Buccaneers players, Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith, along with former USF player Will Bleakley.
One of the boaters was miraculously rescued just after 12 p.m. today.
Former USF football player Nick Schuyler was found clinging to an overturned boat, located approximately 40 miles off of the Pinellas coast.
Schuyler is currently at Tampa General Hospital listed in serious condition.
Nick told the Coast Guard that the boat was anchored before it flipped over. His father later confirmed that Nick last saw his three friends at 2 a.m. on Monday morning. The three men were wearing life vests.
Before locating Schuyler and the boat, the U.S. Coast Guard said it had searched 16,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. However, now officials say a new search for the remaining three men has been concentrated to areas closer to where the boat was last located.
Click here to see the Photo Gallery of his arrival to Tampa General Hospital.
Click here to see the Coast Guard video of Nick's rescue.
Three Coast Guard C-130 airplanes and two Coast Guard helicopters are sharing the skies with a U.S. Air Force C-130 above the search area.
One of the newest assets to join the search, the 179-foot Coast Guard Cutter Tornado, arrived in the area earlier today from its base in Key West.
The commander of the Coast Guard's St. Petersburg Sector says his team has no reason to stop searching, so they intend to continue their efforts into the evening.
"There is no reason to stop at this point," Capt. Timothy Close said. "We're not gonna speculate as to the condition of the guys but, as long as we can, we're gonna be out there searching."
The area of ocean covered so far -- 16,000 square miles -- is equivalent to about 1/3 of the land area in Florida.
High seas and biting winds that had battled search crews much of Sunday and Monday have now backed down a bit. Seas were swelling to 14 feet Sunday night, but have now dropped to 7-9 feet, Close said.
"Winds that were creating white caps out in the Gulf have also died down somewhat," said Close. "That means there's fewer white caps to deal with and it's gonna make it a little bit easier to see anything that's out there floating."
When winds kick up white caps on the water, the small waves can deceive search crews and make it even harder to spot distant objects.
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