June 29, 2017
At Least Two Dead, Five Missing After Sudden Storm Capsizes Sailboats During Alabama Regatta

Ten sailboats participating in the Dauphin Island Regatta at Mobile Bay were capsized when a sudden storm caused the boats to capsize. At least two have been confirmed dead with at least five sailors are still missing. The Coast Guard says that after the storm, at least 40 people were rescued from the sea.

NBC News reports that the sudden storm caused 80 mph winds in the area. The sailors knew a storm was approaching. However, the strong winds came on suddenly and left boaters no chance to prepare. Connor Gaston, who was participating in the race with his father, says he was in his sailboat when the storm hit. Gaston says that though their boat managed to stay upright, his uncle's boat directly ahead almost immediately capsized. Gaston says the storm produced the most wind he had ever seen in his life.

"The wind picked up super, super fast when the storm was coming through,It was the most wind I have seen in my life."

Gaston says that, fortunately, his uncle was rescued from the water and was not injured. However, his cousin is said to have suffered a severe arm injury. Michael Smith, with the Buccaneer yacht club, told WSFA-TV that the Alabama Regatta disaster was very tragic with at least two dead, five missing, scores of sailors injured, and extensive damage to boats in the area.

"It's been a very tragic day. We've had a lot of breakage, missing people, fatalities. We got boats under the bridge that are up against the bridge. We've got boats on the bottom. We've got people missing. We've got confirmed… unfortunately not coming home."

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier says he is unsure exactly how many boats were in the bay at the time of the storm, but notes that the Dauphin Island Regatta typically includes about 150 boats. The Coast Guard reports that it has brought in a number of search vessels, three helicopter rescue crews, and a surveillance aircraft.

"Coast Guard Sector Mobile received a report at approximately 4:30 p.m. that a sailing regatta in Mobile Bay was struck by severe weather causing multiple vessels to capsize and leaving multiple people on the water. Coast Guard Sector Mobile has following assets on scene:
  • 87-foot patrol boat Coast Guard Cutters Stingray and Cobia
  • Four 45-foot response boat - Medium crews from Coast Guard Station Dauphin Island, Pascagoula and Pensacola
  • Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans
  • An HC-144 Ocean Sentry and HH-60 Jayhawk crew from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile
Good Samaritans and local authorities have rescued several people from the water."

More information will be provided as rescue efforts are complete.

[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Stephen Dunn]