Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Scuba Diver Rescued After 22 Hours at Sea

Yikes! Twenty-two hours. Can you imagine?

A missing Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue lieutenant was found off Jensen Beach Saturday morning after spending 22 hours in the ocean.

Patrick Scartozzi, 43, was reported missing at 12:51 p.m. Friday from a boat about 7 miles east of the St. Lucie Inlet. He had gone in the water around noon that day to spearfish.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter found Scartozzi, an experienced diver, shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday. He was about a mile from the beach and 6 miles from his dive site, Fort Pierce Coast Guard station petty officer Larry Blakeslee said.

"He was alert and responsive and was able to give the helicopter crew information," Blakeslee said.

Scartozzi was sent to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach for a checkup and treatment.

Scartozzi, who lives in Palm City with his wife and three children, has been a Fort Lauderdale firefighter about 12 years.

Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Lt. Jason Morss and other officials from the department headed to the Fort Pierce station Friday night to help with the search.

Some firefighters even hauled their personal boats in trailers to help the Coast Guard scour the water.

Also joining the Coast Guard were crews from the Martin and St. Lucie sheriff's offices and Indian River County Fire-Rescue.

By Saturday morning, Morss and others in the crew were happily heading to St. Mary's Medical Center to check on their fellow firefighter.

"It's still a little surreal," Morss said on the ride to the hospital. "It was such an intensive search ... things weren't looking so great for him."

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