DESTIN — Four members of a Midwestern personal watercraft sports club are being credited with plucking six tourists from the East Pass Saturday.
The personal watercraft operators had been jumping 8- to 10-foot waves in the Gulf of Mexico for several hours when they came back through the East Pass.
"We came upon a capsized boat with six men clinging to it," said Tyler Rebman, who is from Cincinnati. Although there were two large boats near the struggling boaters, they couldn't do much to pull them out of the water, Rebman said.
That's when he and the three men he was with went to work.
"Our basic instinct was to help them," he said. "Nobody (in the water) was wearing lifejackets."
Charter captain Brandy Miles-Kitchen said her deckhand, Joey Proscia, first spotted the capsized vessel. Miles-Kitchen then called the U.S. Coast Guard and boated over to assist the tourists — but before they reached the boat and tossed them life preservers, the personal watercraft operators reached the capsized boat. The personal watercraft then transported the tourists to Miles-Kitchen's boat.
The men, who were struggling to hold on to their capsized vessel, panicked during the rescue. One caused one of the personal watercraft to tip over and another fell back in after being pulled out.
The boat, a 21-footer, capsized after having engine problems, the men told the U.S. Coast Guard later.
Rebman said the water was extremely rough at the time.
The Coast Guard got a call about a capsized vessel around 4 p.m.