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Monday, May 22, 2006
Search suspended for missing skipper in S.C.

By Bruce Smith
Associated Press — May 22, 2006

GEORGETOWN, S.C. — The Coast Guard suspended its search for the captain of a charter fishing vessel that capsized off the South Carolina coast.

Six other boaters were rescued.

Robert Clarke, 75, apparently died while helping a boater who was struggling to swim back to the overturned vessel. The search for Clarke was suspended late Thursday.

Mike Robinson was found clinging to a life jacket, while five other boaters were rescued as they clung to the vessel.

Robinson and Clarke became separated from the catamaran when a wave washed them off the hull, said Coast Guard Capt. John Cameron.

Clarke "yelled back to his mate to take care of the five on the boat and that he would stay with Mr. Robinson who was having trouble swimming back," Cameron said. At some point in the night, Robinson told officials, Clarke had "some sort of cardiac event," Cameron said.

Robinson tried to administer CPR and hold onto Clarke, but as hypothermia set in he lost his grip and saw Clarke go underwater, Cameron said.

Clarke, of Murrells Inlet, had saved lives before, including jumping into the water to rescue a man several years ago, said his son, Vaughn Clarke.

"He was a captain," he said. "A captain takes care of his people. Just like in the military, you take care of the people you are responsible for."

The group had been on a fishing expedition when the 26-foot catamaran, the Super Suds II, capsized about 15 miles off Murrells Inlet, authorities said.

Five survivors — mate Gerald Wayne Smith, of Murrells Inlet, and West Virginians Bryan Yocum, Mark Spradlin, Dwayne Wills and Jennings Hughart — were spotted with the overturned boat about 11:30 a.m. Thursday and pulled to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter.

Robinson, of Rupert, W.Va., had been rescued about an hour earlier, after spending about 17 hours in the water.

Cameron said all six were taken to a hospital and several were being treated for hypothermia. He said the water temperature was about 70 degrees.