Eight civilians were rescued this summer by patrolling U.S. Air Force personnel after their boat capsized off Florida’s Gulf Coast and caught the attention of a nearby bull shark.
On the morning of June 12, the 6th Security Forces Squadron Marine Patrol Unit decided to go for a routine sweep of the Tampa Bay coast, according to a MacDill Air Force Base press release.
The decision to go out was actually against protocol due to a “small craft advisory,” warning boaters to stay away from the water because of increased dangers of wind and waves churned up by what became Tropical Storm Alex, a system that passed through the area several days earlier.
Despite this, the unit decided to patrol anyway and discovered eight people in the water clinging to a capsized pontoon boat, and visibly very scared. As airmen tried to rescue the passengers, one airman noticed a circling bull shark that appeared to be 10 to 12 feet in length.
The patrol called for backup as the frequency of tall waves made the rescue extremely difficult. A second marine patrol unit arrived as well as the Coast Guard and the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office. Within 15 minutes the passengers were safely rescued.