TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Airmen from MacDill Air Force base recently rescued eight people from a capsized pontoon boat, circled by a shark, in Tampa Bay.
According to MacDill, on June 12 around 11 a.m., Staff Sgt. William Au, 6th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) Marine Patrol crew lead, was sitting with his partner, Airman 1st Class Kade Jones, looking out into the water around the Air Force base.
According to MacDill Air Force Base’s website, the U.S. Coast Guard had put out a small craft advisory due to high waves caused by a tropical storm.
“Under this advisory, the MacDill marine patrol unit wouldn’t normally do their routine sweep, both for their own safety and for the lack of boats in the water,” MacDill said.
Staff Sgt. Au said he had a gut feeling he needed to get out in to Tampa Bay.
“It was the weirdest thing. We just knew we had to go,” he said.
Au and Jones did a sweep of the water surrounding the base and noticed a pontoon boat in the distance, flipped completely upside down.
Eight victims were stranded in the water.
The airmen called for backup and began their rescue mission.
According to MacDill, Jones noticed a 10-12 foot long bull shark circling the capsized boat.
Airmen 1st Class Samari Rivera-Rodriguez and Savin Venable, 6 SFS marine patrolmen, heard the call for backup on the radio. They jumped in to action to assist in the rescue mission.
When the second marine patrol unit arrived, the passengers were split between the two rescue boats.
The passengers were safe and the Coast Guard and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrived within 15 minutes. The passengers were taken to land and the marine patrol unit and Coast Guard cleaned up the wreckage of the pontoon boat.