Boat sinks off Alaska; Coast Guard rescues 5

By DAN JOLING | May 22, 2011 | 9:13 PM EDT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A Coast Guard helicopter plucked five people off a life raft Sunday as their pleasure boat sank about 85 miles north of Kodiak Island in Alaska.

Names of the people on board the 60-foot Nordic Mistress were not immediately available, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally, but all were from Anchorage. He did not have details of the nature of the trip.

The agency took a mayday call by VHF radio late Sunday morning from the vessel. A man is heard excitedly describing the boat as a 60-footer with a white hull in need of immediate assistance.

"We're taking on water. We're going down," the man said. "We need your help out here."

A Coast Guard operator in Anchorage asked if the vessel carried dewatering pumps.

"That's a negative," the man replied. "No pumps."

A helicopter crew from Kodiak launched at 11:50 a.m. The Coast Guard also diverted a HC-130 Hercules fixed wing airplane to help search for the vessel.

The helicopter reached the vessel 45 minutes later at 12:35 p.m.

The Nordic Mistress was partially submerged. All five people on board had donned survival suits and boarded a life raft. The life raft was bobbing in 6-foot seas with winds blowing at 15 mph, according to the Coast Guard.

The raft was surrounded by debris.

The helicopters dropped a rescue swimmer to assist the five in the raft. They were hoisted into the helicopter and flown to Kodiak.

The operation lasted about 40 minutes, Lally said. The cause of the sinking has not been determined, he said.

Anchorage search and rescue controller Steven Garcia praised the response of the people on board the stricken boat.

"The ability of the persons aboard being able to put on survival suites and enter a life raft could have been the difference between life and death in this situation," he said in a statement. "By using the on board VHF marine radio to call for help and by properly using their safety gear, the five people took the necessary steps to ensure their safety and to help the Coast Guard quickly come to their rescue."

Lally said the amount of fuel on board the vessel was not known but no sheen was immediately spotted.