UPDATE - The body of a missing fisherman was pulled out of the Mississippi Sound this morning near the east end of Cat Island. Authorities have identified that body as Rodney Brewer, the man who disappeared after a Sunday boating mishap.
An autopsy will be done tomorrow to determine how the Long Beach man died. Sadly, today would have been Mr. Brewer's 42nd birthday.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They clung to a gas can and seat cushion after their small fishing boat flipped over near Cat Island.
Keith Schott of Long Beach was rescued by another passing boater Sunday afternoon. But his fishing partner, 43-year-old Rodney Brewer, is feared dead following an exhaustive search by the Coast Guard and others.
"They said it happened within a split second. They just had no time to react to anything," says Coast Guard petty officer Patrick Hedden.
The Coast Guard searched more than 1300 square miles of sea, trying desperately to find the missing fisherman.
There were only light waves when the accident happened, but they were enough to overturn the fishermen's 12 foot skiff.
"With the force of the water pushing against the motor, the swells pushing the vessel one way and their momentum, their weight going another way, all three came together at once and that's when they went overboard," said Hedden.
Attention to boating safety becomes even more critical as winter approaches and the water temperature drops.
The Coast Guard says in the area when the fishing boat overturned, the water temperature was around 65 degrees. In water that chilly, a person could survive for just 16 hours.
"If you don't have your safety equipment, if you don't know what you're doing, it doesn't do you any good no matter what size vessel you're in," said Richard Cooley, the boating safety director for the Department of Marine Resources.
Life preservers top the list. There are several certified types to choose from, but there's one key requirement.
"None of these life jackets do you any good if they're not being worn though. That's the problem. People, we check them day in and day out and they don't have their life jackets accessible," said Cooley.
Flares are another must for anyone venturing offshore. They could alert rescue crews to your location.
There's also another important "must" for any boat trip.
"If you go boating, don't forget. You need to let somebody know where you're going, what time you're going to be back and what your plans are," Cooley warns.
It's good advice that may help ensure a safe boat ride or fishing trip.