VENICE, Louisiana -- Four people died and one was rescued after their boat capsized during a fishing trip on the Gulf of Mexico, according to Louisiana authorities.
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Adam Einck said the five left a marina near Venice in south Louisiana at about 6:30 a.m. local time Saturday but that their twin-engine boat's motor went out an hour or so later. The boat took on water and capsized.
Einck said three victims were from Alabama and one was from Louisiana. He said the survivor, 33-year-old Heath Dowsey of Alabama, told authorities he held onto a rope on the front of the capsized sport fishing vessel. The four others, including his father and uncle, became unresponsive, apparently from hypothermia. They were clinging to the side of the boat and four lifejackets, which they had not been able to put on, Eink quoted Dowsey as saying.
The crew of an oil industry supply vessel found the survivor around 1 p.m. and transported him to a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. He was taken to the Coast Guard station in Venice where he was treated for mild hypothermia by emergency medical personnel, but he declined transport to a hospital.
The Coast Guard identified the victims early Sunday as Wayne Dowsey, the survivor's father; Randy Dowsey, the survivor's uncle; a woman, Kerri Burns; and Kenny Mac.
"They were not able to get out a distress call before this happened," Einck said.
Einck said the boat capsized about three miles (5 kilometers) offshore, near the South Pass entrance to the Mississippi River.
"It is believed that the four deceased succumbed to hypothermia," he said, adding that the survivor said they became unresponsive after about an hour. "The fifth was able to crawl on top of the boat that was capsized and we believe that was probably why he was able to (survive) the cold water."
The Coast Guard said in a news release that it received a call from a crew member aboard the Sea Angel, a 165-foot (50-meter) offshore crew boat, reporting they'd found Heath Dowsey "clinging to the hull of an overturned sport fishing vessel. Dowsey was not wearing a life jacket when he was found."
The bodies of the four victims were found floating in the water and were transported to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Venice.
The state Wildlife and Fisheries department is investigating the deaths. Officials were unable to recover the boat Saturday and will try again Sunday.
U.S. Coast Guard petty officer William Colclough said late Saturday "it's very difficult to withstand, to remain conscious, in extremely cold water. That's why it's very important all boaters wear lifejackets at all times."
He said that when someone is unexpectedly thrown into cold waters, they may undergo torso reflex, which can cause them to ingest water and drown. He added it's very difficult to retrieve and put on a life jacket at the same time.
"It most cases it can happen in a matter of seconds, if a second," he said of a capsizing. "It's just not enough time to put one on."