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Middletown boating tragedy emphasizes need for float plan

BRANFORD -   Boater safety is on the minds of many on the heels of a former Middletown resident being found adrift in a raft, eight days after he and his mother set out on a fishing trip.

Coast Guard Sector Long Island, which covers Connecticut's waters, makes approximately 250-300 rescues each year. There are several factors in determining how a missing boater search can have a positive outcome.

When boaters, like Nathan Carman, 22, of Vermont, and his mother, Linda Carman, 54, of Middletown, were reported missing, after departing Point Judith, R.I, Sept. 17, the Coast Guard's Boston Sector began to search. The key to a positive outcome in many instances includes the Coast Guard having access to information on the boat and interviews with a family and friends of anybody who is missing.

"People who know what their activities are or where they might go, who they might go with..." said Cdr. Andrew Ely, of Coast Guard Sector Long Island . "Do they tend to go by themselves? Do they go with someone else? Do they carry life jackets? Do they wear them?"

All clues that would help the Coast Guard determine what the boater might do if they were to get in trouble, according to Ely.

"We look at where the vessel is in relation to land. We look at how long the vessel has been missing and how big is the area that we're searching," he said.

Ely said aircraft are much more effective to search a large area quickly, especially in colder waters.

"I want to get there as quick as possible, right? When hypothermia or other things set in that might make it hard for a person to stay afloat or stay conscious," he said.

Carman was discovered by a freighter, as he floated in a four man raft some 100 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. Since his health was reported to be fine, the freighter will bring him back to the mainland, where he is expected to arrive Tuesday. His mother is presumed to be dead.

Ely says, even in water as warm as 78 degrees, someone overboard might only survive for up to five days. That's only if you actually swim and can keep yourself afloat. That's why he says a life jacket should be worn by everyone on a boat.

The Coast Guard has an app, whose features include a float plan, which "describes your vessel, your specific activity, where you're going to go, when you might check in with a loved one or somebody else," said Ely.

After filling it out, you would then email that information to family or friends so that you don't become one of the 250-300 rescues the Coast Guard Sector Long Island makes every year in Long island Sound.