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2 men rescued from Gulf waters

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By Toni C. Collins, Levy County Historian

By Buster Thompson

Being stranded in a boat on the Gulf of Mexico for 12 hours will be a fishing trip Charles Scott won’t soon forget.

Scott and his brother-in-law Jerry Newsome, both in their late 60s, went out the morning of Sept. 29 to go grouper fishing, Scott said Tuesday.

The Marion County residents launched Newsome’s boat from a ramp near Yankeetown in Levy County, pushing their 17’ Starcraft vessel 27 miles out into the Gulf.

Several hours into their day, Scott and Newsome realized at about 2 p.m. they forgot to put oil in the boat, which would not start, marooning the pair without any way to contact their loved ones.

“So we just sort of sat their,” Scott said about how him and Newsome anchored their boat.

Scott’s wife, Wanda, said she expected her husband to call around 3 p.m. to say he was returning home. She never got that call.

“I didn’t get anything and I was a little bit concerned,” Wanda Scott said. “The first two hours I was so frantic.”

Wanda Scott’s worries intensified when Scott and Newsome’s fishing buddies called her, saying Scott and Newsome’s boat trailer was still at the boat ramp when they were leaving for home, prompting family members to reach out to the U.S. Coast Guard (USGC) at about 5 p.m.

Rescuers dispatched a C-130 airplane to scour the waters, said USGC Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Roe from the Coast Guard station in Yankeetown.

Wanda Scott’s family and friends from the Riverland Baptist Church in Dunnellon rushed to support her and Newsome’s wife, starting prayer chains with churches across the U.S.

“I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of prayers,” Wanda Scott said. “All night long my cellphone and house phones were ringing.”

As night began to engulf Scott and Newsome, heavy winds started swirling around them, pushing waves higher against their vessel. They just prayed their boat wouldn’t capsize or separate from its anchor.

“The boat was bobbing and down like a cork,” Scott said.

Then hope arrived from the horizon when the Coast Guard’s C-130 appeared and began circling the stranded men’s boat and dropping a slow-burning flare overhead to mark their location.

“He was kind of waving his wings, like ‘OK, he found us,’” Scott said. “They just wanted to make sure we were still in the same position.”

At about 2:45 a.m. on Sept. 30, a USGC rescue boat met with Scott and Newsome and brought them back to shore in Yankeetown.

Wanda Scott said she and her family were hysterical when news reached them of their loved ones’ safe return.

“All I could do was start bawling and crying,” she said. “Thank you Jesus, thank you for Your protection and bringing them back home to us.”

The Scotts both thank the Coast Guard for their service and for bringing their family back together.

“They did an excellent job, they need to be commended,” Scott said. “Congratulations to the Coast Guard and the pilot of the plane.”

“We never can give enough gratitude to these kinds of people,” Wanda Scott added.

Scott did joke he was upset they didn’t catch any grouper.

“It just added insult to injury,” he said.