25 years later: survivors still thankful for second chance


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.- David Jones and Art Higbee stand in front of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Atlantic City Nov. 3, 2011. The two men were rescued by the Coast Guard after the fishing vessel they were aboard, Super Heat, sank about 30-miles southeast of Ocean City, N.J., Sept. 14, 1986. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cynthia Oldham.

Post written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cynthia Oldham

David Jones and Art Higbee visited Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., Nov. 3, 2011 to take a look around – and to reminisce.

More than 25 years ago the 32-foot fishing vessel, Super Heat, they were aboard sank about 30 miles offshore from Ocean City, N.J., leaving them and three other men stranded in the rough, 70-degree water.

Sept. 14, 1986, at 7:17 a.m., Coast Guard Group Cape May, N.J., watchstanders received a last-chance radio mayday hail transmitted moments before Super Heat completely disappeared beneath the water.

“The water was mirror-like when we left in the morning. Once we got about ten miles out the seas changed,” said Jones.

Once the boat started to go down, it took only two minutes to sink. Jones said he was trying to bail water out with buckets, but the waves crashing onto the stern quickly became too much for the boat to handle.

A 41-foot Utility Boat crew from Station Great Egg and an HH-52 Sea Guard helicopter crew from Air Station Cape May, N.J., searched for the men all day.

Just after midnight on Sept.15 the 555-foot bulk carrier Melvin H. Baker radioed to the Coast Guard that they found and rescued three of the five men, including Higbee, from the water after hearing their yells for help. The men had become separated after being in the water for more than 18 hours. A short time later, the Coast Guard helicopter crew located and hoisted Jones and another man from the water and transported them to Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital in Cape May.

Jones and Higbee toured the air station and posed for a photo in front of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, an aircraft much newer than the one Jones was rescued by. They talked about their lives since the rescue and how thankful they are for the second chance they were given.

“I love the Coast Guard; I owe my life to the Coast Guard,” said Jones, “My sons would not exist if they hadn’t saved my life that day.”