SHARK RIVER INLET, NJ — After being separated from her dive group while exploring an underwater shipwreck off Asbury Park this past Saturday, a New York City woman was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard about two miles away several hours later.
A Shark River Inlet Station reserve crew was called into action in a small response boat at 11:20 a.m. on August 17, following a distress call from Capt. Jim Wilson of the dive vessel, Gypsy Blood, about the diver who went missing near the wreck of the Pinta, which is situated about eight miles off the coast of Asbury Park.
Some three hours later, the boat crew located the experienced diver, Clarissa Rhiannon Slesar, about two miles southwest of the Gypsy Blood after she was sighted floating in the water with an orange inflatable surface marker buoy, according to a Coast Guard release. Uninjured, she was brought to the Shark River Inlet Station.
Slesar called the incident “a very humbling experience," adding, "I’ve been doing advanced technical dives for years. I made what I thought was a small mistake, that manifested in a huge issue."
She explained that the visibility due to fog was so bad that she wasn’t seen on the surface and drifted nearly three hours in the fog. “I heard a (helicopter) directly above me, but couldn’t see it and realized that they couldn’t see me either. I got pretty scared when I heard it leave,” she recounted.
After about 2½ hours, she saw a Coast Guard boat through the fog, which took a sharp turn in her direction. “The Shark River USCG reserve crew was really happy to find me. I was happier to see them” she said. “During those hours drifting, I was thinking that I might not make it, and about my peeps who were probably really scared and upset.”
Slesar thanked Capt. Jim Wilson of the Gypsy Blood for contacting the Coast Guard quickly after she didn’t surface on time, as well as others involved in the rescue.
“The Gypsy Blood crew went back down to the wreck to search for me, as well as Dave Barnes of Scubadelphia, Alex Barnard and Tim Hughes of Gotham Divers,” she said. “The dive boat Independence II captained by Dan Bartone steamed to our location and (crew members) Brandon McWilliams and Daniel Martinez also went down to the wreck to look for me.”
“At the end of the day, I owe my life to Capt. Jim and crew of Gypsy Blood, the Shark River USCG reserve crew, and Capt. Bartone of the Independence II and crew,” she added.
Slesar specifically extended her appreciation to the following individuals: Clay Davis, Brian McGinn, Vincent Petraco, Michael Goszka, Corey Karp, Ronald Lee, Hunter Hawkinberry, Shane Hosler and Jorge Gonzalez, all of the Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet/Shark River, based in Point Pleasant Beach; Capt. Jim Wilson, Dominic Borelli, John Perozzi and Bill Aberle, all of the Gypsy Blood based out of Point Pleasant Beach; and Capt. Dan Bartone, Brandon McWilliams and Daniel Martinez, all of the Independence II of Brielle.
Diving is an inherently risky activity, which is why it is so important to be safe and prepared, said Petty Officer First Class Dan Box of the Sector Delaware Bay command center, which received the distress call via VHF-FM radio channel 16.
“I'm happy to say that the missing diver rescued today was both prepared and experienced, which immensely helped this search to have a successful conclusion,” Box added.
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