Four fishermen were missing Saturday after their boat sank off the Texas Gulf Coast, said the Coast Guard, which was searching an area about the size of Delaware for the missing men. One other crewmember was rescued a day earlier when searchers found him floating in a life raft.
The Coast Guard continued its search overnight on Saturday and into Sunday but the rest of the crew remained missing.
Trouble started aboard the Nite Owl, a 50-foot commercial fishing boat, at around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, when the Coast Guard received a distress signal from the vessel, Petty Officer Richard Brahm said. About five hours after launching a search by air and by sea for the boat -- which started to sink about 115 miles from its home port, Galveston, Texas -- a Coast Guard search team spotted crew member John Reynolds waving his arms aboard his orange raft.
"They saw a life raft floating. They launched a helicopter, went up there, and there was one guy in the life raft," Brahm said. Reynolds was in good condition, but worried about his fellow fishermen, Brahm added.
"We dropped him off on our oil rig, and our helicopter kept searching," Brahm said. "They took him back to Houston and continued searching the rest of the night and this morning we started searching again."
Reynolds was later returned to Galveston, a coastal city about 50 miles from Houston.
The search, which has covered about 2,000 square miles -- "a little smaller than the state of Delaware," Brahm said -- involved jets and other aircraft as well as boats. The Coast Guard continued its search overnight on Saturday and into Sunday, but the rest of the crew remained missing.
"When it comes to canceling a search and rescue case, that's really up to our search and rescue coordinators," he said. "They base a lot of factors into calling off a search," including water temperature, wind speed, and the number of people missing.
The four missing fishermen were not identified. It's not clear what caused the boat to sink early Friday.
"The guy that we rescued just said the boat started sinking. He wasn't sure what caused it. That will be part of the Coast Guard investigation," Brahm said.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the rescued fisherman.
This story was originally published on Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:07 PM EDT