The storm that tore through the Gulf Coast this weekend has left a tragedy in its wake with two confirmed dead and four feared missing from a sailing regatta that was caught in winds up to 70 miles per hour.
Coast guard rescuers plucked dozens of sailors from the water after hurricane force winds struck right in the middle of the Dauphin Island Regatta in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Many of the boats were apparently caught by surprise. The waves quickly sunk boats such as a 23.5-foot boat piloted by Rhonda Morgan Gilreath and her partner Randy Rutledge, according to AL.com.
Gilreath of Rome Ga. told the newspaper their boat and another 22-foot boat capsized instantly just 15 minutes from the finish of the race when the waves reached 15-feet and wind picked up to 60 mph.
“It was just unbelievable how high the waves were,” Gilreath said. “They were just bashing you from every side.”
The couple spent two hours in the water before being rescued. Unfortunately at least two others were not as lucky and at least four others are feared missing.
Lee Creekmore has a harrowing story he told AL.com about losing a fellow crewmember, 27-year-old Kris Beal. Creekmore, 27, had gone into the water himself when the winds started howling and eventually climbed back on board to lower the sails. That’s when he noticed Beal hanging from a line attached the rudder. He said he tried to pull him back on board but nearly got pulled into the water himself. And then Beal was gone.
“There was no way we could sail the boat back against 70-mile-per-hour winds,” he told the paper.
It’s a tragic story that shows just how dangerous sailing can be. What otherwise might seem like a leisure sport has the potential to turn lethal at any moment.
Despite the best efforts of Coast Guard Rescuers, on Monday evening hope was fading that the remaining four missing sailors be found alive.