A dire situation off the coast of North Carolina has a happy ending, as four divers are rescued after spending 16 hours adrift. A U.S. Navy destroyer who happened to be training in the area played a key role in the rescue.
The divers, which included three men and a 16-year-old boy, were reported missing around noon Sunday, Aug. 13, after they did not resurface while diving from the pleasure boat Big Bill’s. They were about 63 miles east of Myrtle Beach in an area known as the frying pan shoals, according to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston.
A large-scale search was launched, including a Coast Guard helicopter crew and Hercules aircraft crew from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, a Motor Lifeboat, two Coast Guard cutters, including the Sailfish from Portsmouth, Virginia, and the Navy Destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) from Norfolk.
By 12:45 a.m. Monday, Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City HC-130 Hercules airplane crew had spotted an SOS-strobe light, located the four missing divers and launched a life raft 46 miles southeast of Cape Fear River, North Carolina.
The helicopter crew coordinated with the USS Porter, who had been conducting a training exercise offshore. The Porter crew rescued all four divers safely from the life raft. Coast Guard video captured the difficult open-water rescue. Watch below:
The 505-foot-long Porter just adopted Norfolk as its new homeport in October 2022. Since her commissioning in 1999, the destroyer has fought in the Iraq War, sunk Somali pirates, and while most recently homeported in Rota, Spain, attacked Syrian military targets. At Naval Station Norfolk, the Porter has engaged in several training exercises including this one that put the crew in the right place at the right time.
The four survivors were then transferred to a Coast Guard 47-foot Motor Lifeboat, which brought them safely back to Coast Guard Station Oak Island to reunite with friends and family.
The divers were identified as Ben Wiggins, 64, Luke Lodge, 26, Daniel Williams, 46, and Evan Williams, 16.
“Any time the Coast Guard launches for a search and rescue case, it is always our hope and goal to be able to reunite those we are searching for with their friends and families,” said Capt. Timothy List, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina. “In this case that is exactly what took place, which is always a great feeling for our rescue crews.”
-Meg Walburn Viviano