‘Gracie Bell’ owner discusses U.S. Coast Guard rescue off Pritchards Island

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - The search continues for three missing boaters off the coast of Tybee Island.

Gary McGowen, Benjamin Dover, and Isaac West were all members of the "Miss Debbie" vessel that overturned off the coast of Tybee Island Tuesday night.

WTOC spoke with the owner of a Beaufort shrimp boat that was also caught in this week's bad weather but was rescued early Wednesday morning off Pritchards Island with no injuries.

They're hoping the same will be said for the fisherman who remain missing.

Craig Reaves, owner of the "Gracie Belle', said this week was the start of the season, and that's why his fishing boat - along with several others - were out at sea. Even with bad weather in the forecast.

Early Wednesday morning, four people aboard the "Gracie Bell' found themselves in distress. The boat's mast was broken and the weather was taking a turn for the worst.

"In the worst conditions that I have ever experienced in 30 years," Reaves said.

The U.S. Coast Guard was called in and rescued the crew by helicopter, just two miles off Pritchards Island. The crew all made it out without injuries. The boat recovered and is sitting at the dock this Friday.

"It really went as well as it could be with the conditions as bad as they were, in a boat that has been basically abandoned," Reaves said.

His crew considers themselves lucky, pushing to make opening day for shrimping season. Reaves was asked if most people realize the dangers fisherman can have on the job.

"No. They have no idea. And for the most part, it's a wonderful way to make a living. But, there are days. There are times where it's for real. I mean, it's life or death," Reaves said.

Reaves says he's praying and hoping for the best for the fisherman of the "Miss Debbie".

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