A Coast Guard aircrew rescued three people from a sinking vessel off Ocracoke Island early Friday morning.
Watchstanders with Coast Guard Sector North Carolina in Wilmington received a distress call around midnight via VHF-FM channel 16 from someone aboard a 41-foot sailboat that was taking on water 19 miles southeast of Hatteras Inlet.
The three people aboard were wearing life jackets and preparing to abandon ship, according to a Coast Guard news release.
Watchstanders advised the mariners to grab the Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon from the vessel and to only enter the water as a last resort.
The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City and dispatched a 47-foot Motor Life Boat crew from Station Hatteras Inlet.
Once on scene, the Jayhawk crew discovered that the water in the boat was knee-deep. The crew hoisted the three mariners from the sinking vessel and transported them back to the air station as the sailboat sank.
“When an emergency arises underway, it’s vital to have a life jacket on,” said Lt. Amanda Faulkner, command duty officer at the 5th District command center. “These mariners were minutes away from entering the water in the middle of the night. Not having a life jacket might have cost them their lives.”
This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.