Coast Guard gadget helps find body

March 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The U.S. Coast Guard used cutting edge technology to look for two sailors who went missing last weekend. It helped trace the debris they found off the coast to the body of Anthony Harrow. The owner of the sailboat is still missing, but today the Coast Guard showed us the high-tech tools it uses to save people and boats lost at sea.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Bryan Patrick is preparing to drop a data marker buoy 12 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

After a buoy is dropped, a signal begins to transmit, sending back wind, current and water temperature information. lt helps the pilots, Mike Norris and Shane Greer, determine where anything lost in this area would be headed. The buoy is usually dropped at the last known location of a missing boat or where debris from a boat might have been sighted.

"I'm essentially creating a square, a large square, of a search area," said Lieutenant Mike Norris.

When the helicopter gets the data, the buoy sends to the control command center on Coast Guard island the pilots program that pattern into their onboard computer. With an autopilot assist the helicopter automatically begins to fly a programmed search pattern.

"The aircraft can now fly this pattern hands off and allow us to focus our attention on looking outside and try to find the survivor," said Lieutenant Norris.

The buoy we launched traveled half a mile in 20 minutes.

The Coast Guard received news of the disappearance of 67-year-old Matthew Gale and his boat, The Daisy, six hours after he was last sighted outside the gate Saturday. Three different fast moving currents in this area can send debris or a boat miles away in that time.

It was the use of a buoy that helped the Coast Guard find Gale's sailing companion whose body was found off the San Mateo coast on Sunday. Gale has not been found.

The Coast Guard will not comment on The Daisy's disappearance. They do suggest that all boats carry an electronic position indicating beacon.

"It'll automatically activate itself so it'll transmit that position automatically," said U.S. Coast Guard Commander John Copley.

Commander Copley says the unit costs $500 dollars. It can help the Coast Guard locate the position of a boat in distress within three feet.

The Coast Guard says that they suspended the search for Matthew Gale and are launching an investigation as to why and how the boat disappeared.