EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — A marine operations crew associated with Reliance Test & Technology rescued a jet skier stranded off the coast of Eglin property Monday morning.
Keith White of Pensacola, who was described as being in his early to mid-twenties, had been stranded in Choctawhatchee Bay overnight after running out of gas Sunday. He had set out from Pensacola around 10:30 that morning, and did not return as expected later that day.
According to Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Magee with the U.S. Coast Guard’s public affairs office in New Orleans, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, a Coast Guard Response Boat-Small crew from Coast Guard Station Pensacola, members of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and a helicopter crew from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had all been searching for the jet skier.
John Saucier, the marine operations technical supervisor for SA-TECH, one of Reliance Test & Technology’s subcontractors, said a three-man crew from his shop came upon the missing man around 8:14 a.m.
“We had just finished up the big WSEP (Weapons System Evaluation Program) exercise last week, and our guys were heading out to retrieve some of the equipment from the bay,” Saucier said. “They come across jet skiers all the time, but this time the guy was waving them down, so they went to check it out.”
Saucier said the marine operations crews are taught to always be observant on the water, and to provide assistance as needed. Chris Pifer was the skipper of the crew that performed the rescue, along with Mike Bond and Kyle Launch.
The men towed White and his jet ski to shore, and contacted his family as well as the Coast Guard. According to Saucier, White had lost his cell phone in the water and was unable to summon help after he ran out of gas.
“I’m tickled pink with these guys,” Saucier said of the rescuers. “They always do a great job.”