Last Saturday, Marquis Cooper, William Bleakley, Corey Smith, and Nick Schuyler set out on Cooper's 21 ft. Evergaldes fishing boat to embark on an offshore fishing excursion. Both Cooper and Smith were NFL players, while Schuyler was a former football player for the University of South Florida. A fifth man Clay Eavenson was invited on the trip, but he declined the offer. Two days prior to their trip on Saturday, Clay had been out with Cooper and urged him to buy a emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). This device is specifically geared towards helping distressed boats. It sends out a GPS coordinate of a distressed vessel, so that the rescue crews have a better chance of located a stranded boater. Despite the idea Clay had suggested, Cooper failed to purchase this piece of equipment before his trip.
The men left the Clear Water pass early Saturday morning heading out to what was at one point a calm sea. Heavy winds began to pick up as the day pushed on, enlarging the waves to a height of 7 ft. The high wind and rough seas were too much for the 21 ft. boat to handle and it capsized. According to Schuyler, the boat was anchored when it turned over.
After the boat capsized it is presumed that all four men were wearing life vest and clinging to the capsized boat. The grave danger that the men were in was the water tempature they were facing. With it only being early spring the normally warm waters of the Gulf are still quite cold. Besides being capsized and lost at sea, the groups biggest concern had to be hypothermia. It was reported that two to four hours after the boat capsized one of the NFL players took his life vest off and was taken out to sea. He was shortly followed by the other NFL player, leaving only Schuyler and Bleakley clinging to the boat.
The two hung on to the capsized vessel until the moring, but then Bleakley tried to swim and get help when he thought he saw a light in the distance. He was reported by Schuyler of having taken his life vest off before he attempted the swim. "I think he was delusional to think he could swim someplace," the Times quoted Bob Bleakley, his father, as saying.
Schuyler was remarkably rescued Monday after being stranded in the Gulf waters since Saturday. Many doctors and physicians say that he is lucky to be alive. The search continued for the other 3 missing men, but there was little luck. The search was called off Tuesday evening after many intense hours were put in. Friends and family have still not given up hope. They have rented many charter boats and private planes and are scanning the Gulf waters to find their loved ones.
This is an extremely sad story to hear about. Whether you have been offshore fishing in the Tampa Bay area or never even been on a boat, you heart must go out to these men and their families. It is horrible to have a tradgic event like this happen because it effects so many people. We must learn boating safety from this and keep our thoughts out to the families of the men that are still missing.