A Midwest postal worker fiddling with his ham radio helped rescue two British yachtsmen trapped in a sailboat sinking 500 miles off the coast of Florida.
Killing time before going to work Monday afternoon, Wilber Warke, a former Air Force radio technician, heard the distress call on one of thousands of open, unmonitored radio channels."I heard this English accent voice come over and say he had an emergency and did anybody copy," Warke said.
The sailor said his 50-foot wooden sailboat Que Tal - Spanish for "What's happening?" - was taking on water.
Warke relayed the boat's location to the Coast Guard, which arranged for a nearby commercial ship, the Norwegian tanker Team Trinta, to help.
"I was amazed at how fast things happened. In less than two hours, before I had to leave for work at 4, the Coast Guard called me to tell me that the Team Trinta had the sloop in sight," Warke said.
The tanker rescued the men. The sailboat sank.
The Coast Guard did not know which sailor made the call or why he didn't used any of several distress frequencies monitored by authorities.
The two Englishmen, Nicholas Kyriacou and John Briffa, had set sail for Aruba from North Carolina Nov. 2 before having problems about 290 miles southwest of Bermuda.
"The only time he sounded panicky was when he said, `If I get out of this, I'm going to give all of you guys a big kiss,"' Warke said.