911 Communications Specialists praised in ocean rescue


Sheriff Rick Ramsay praised a Sheriff’s Office 911 Communications Specialist and her co-workers on Friday for their work in the sea rescue Thursday of a boy and his grandparents.


“The outcome of this case could well have been tragic had 911 Communications Specialist Amanda Coleman not stepped up to the plate, bring all her training to the table and proceed with the utmost professionalism,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I am so happy to report this boy and his grandparents are alive and well. I also want to bring attention to the men and women of our 911 Communications Center who often go above and beyond. This case also exemplifies our working partnerships with other agencies and how dramatic the impact we can have when we work together.”


The case began at approximately 2:04 p.m. after 11-year-old Avani Perez called 911 on a cell phone to report that his grandparents — Jim and Kim Harris of Hollywood, Florida — had entered the water and drifted away. He stated they were near Rodriguez Key off Mile Marker 99 on the Oceanside.


The anchor line of their 21-foot Mako boat got caught in the propeller and Jim Harris entered the water to free the line. He began having trouble when Kim Harris entered the water with a pool noodle. Both then began drifting away. Perez called 911 and thus began an hour-long drama on the phone as Specialist Coleman worked to rescue all three. Specialist Coleman reported Perez kept a level head, donned a life jacket and was able to run through all the safety equipment on the boat. Perez was able to provide GPS coordinates aboard the boat.


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard were also notified. Both responded.


Perez was able to describe how far away his grandparents were using football field increments to Specialist Coleman until he could no longer see them. Perez also provided Specialist Coleman with information regarding how far the boat had drifted. Communications Lt. Charlene Sprinkle worked with FWC Dispatch. FWC shared the information with other mariners and commercial fisherman. One commercial fisherman spotted Jim and Kim Harris and removed them from the ocean.


Specialist Coleman stayed on the line with Perez for roughly an hour until 3:01 p.m. when all three were rescued. The FWC then reunited all three.


There were no serious injuries reported.


Specialist Coleman praised Perez for keeping calm, thinking clearly and following instructions. Specialist Coleman has been employed by the Sheriff’s Office for 29 years.


The U.S. Coast Guard invited Perez to Coast Guard Station Islamorada on Friday in order to commend him for his actions during the ordeal.


“The Sheriff’s Office, FWC and U.S. Coast Guard all worked as a team and saved lives,” said FWC Capt. David Dipre. “The outcome was outstanding, because of the outstanding partnerships, excellent communication and strong desire to help others.”


The family is from Hollywood, Florida, but stated they visit the Keys often.