British man dies as Royal Navy helicopter rescues wife and children from capsized ship near Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

British man dies as Royal Navy helicopter rescues wife and children from capsized ship near Puerto Rico after Hurricane MariaA British man died and his family were plucked to safety by a Royal Navy helicopter after their pleasure boat overturned while sailing off Puerto Rico in the teeth of Hurricane Maria. The 56-year-old Briton's wife, a 48-year-old Dominican, and their two 12-year-old sons were spotted on top of the capsized vessel waving desperately for help while he was trapped underneath. It was believed the family had set sail from Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, which was battered by Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago, and were trying to reach St Lucia. Their vessel, the Ferrel, was a 133ft former survey ship sued by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It had been decommissioned in 2002 and recently converted into a pleasure boat. US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Brown said: "We initially got the call, a vessel in distress, a family of four, north of St Croix, literally in the teeth of a hurricane. "We were obviously concerned. We didn’t ask their names and didn’t ask why they were out there." The US Coast Guard in Miami said the Ferrel sent out an emergency position alert on Wednesday as Hurricane Maria approached Puerto Rico. Rescuers hoist up stranded family Credit: AP The family then issued a distress call saying they were adrift amid 20ft waves and 115 mph winds near Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico's east coast. Communications were then lost with the boat. A search was launched which included the Royal Navy ship RFA Mounts Bay, the US Coast Guard, and US Navy. The USS Kearsage amphibious assault ship, a search plane and helicopters also joined the hunt. In the early hours of the morning a Wildcat helicopter from RFA Mounts Bay spotted an upturned hull, debris, and a life raft in the water, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said. Three people were then seen clambering up on top of the capsized hull and waved for help. They were winched on to the Wildcat and flown to RFA Mounts Bay where they were treated for minor injuries, before being returned to Tortola. Captain Steve Norris, Commanding Officer of RFA Mounts Bay, said: "My ship and crew demonstrated exceptional teamwork today to save these lives and I am immensely grateful to them all for their efforts in this operation. "It is with regret that we understand that a fourth individual at the scene is missing, presumed dead. Our thoughts go out to their family." The boat capsized after being hit by Hurricane Maria Credit: AP The body of the man was not recovered and was "inaccessible to search and rescue crews" under the boat, the US Coast Guard said. A spokesman said: "The husband was a British national. The wife was Dominican." Maria's winds had blown the Ferrel about 50 miles from where the distress call was made. Dramatic video footage filmed from a US Coast Guard helicopter showed the woman and two boys, wearing life jackets, standing and waving for help from the hull of their boat, then being rescued by the Royal Navy helicopter. Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico for almost 90 years. The entire island of 3.5 million people was left without electricity and there were warnings it could take months to restore power. At least 33 people were killed on Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, homes were destroyed, there was widespread flooding, and communities remained isolated with roads impassable. Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of the Puerto Rican capital San Juan, said: "I got an SOS from an elderly home and it was a text like from a horror movie. "It said if anybody can hear us, please, we are stuck here and we can't get out and we have no power, and we have very little water left. We got there just in time." Experts expected the storm to cause up to $ 45 billion in damage across the Caribbean, with at least $ 30 billion of that in Puerto Rico. On Friday Maria, the second major hurricane to hit the Caribbean this month, moved on to lash the Turks and Caicos Islands. Meanwhile Evacuations were underway in two towns in the northwest of the island after a dam began failing in what the government called an "extremely dangerous" situation. Isabela and Quebradillas, towns which are home to 70,000 people, were being cleared with buses "as quickly as they can," the National Weather Service said. The nearby Guajataca Dam holds back a man-made lake covering two square miles, and was built decades ago.



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