Health & Environment

Texas A&M Maritime Academy Rescues Three Stranded At Sea

Cadets gain real-world experience after saving boaters who had been adrift in the Gulf Mexico for 15 days.
By Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications June 9, 2024

A photo of a small boat with a ship in the background in the Gulf of Mexico.
Texas A&M University students aboard the TS Kennedy in the Gulf of Mexico rescued three people from a stranded vessel over the weekend.

Texas A&M Maritime Academy


Texas A&M Maritime Academy student cadets received first-hand training Saturday in answering the first law of the sea to render aid to those in distress.

While traveling from Texas to Florida on the academy’s training ship, TS Kennedy, cadet lookouts spotted a small vessel disabled and in distress drifting in the central Gulf of Mexico. In coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, professional ship crew members brought three individuals aboard who had been adrift for 15 days. The three were treated medically and transferred to the Coast Guard on Sunday to be reunited with their families.

“I’ve had 20-plus years at sea, and I’ve only experienced one other incident such as this,” said Capt. Wade Howell ’02, master of the academy’s training ship. “Cadets notified me they had sighted a small vessel in the water. We initiated protocol to investigate and realized they were signaling distress. In coordination with the Coast Guard, we brought them aboard safely and got them care.”

The rare experience happened during the academy’s annual summer sea semester onboard the 540-foot TS Kennedy, a key learning component for students enrolled in Texas A&M degree programs that combine academic study in marine transportation, engineering biology and science with Coast Guard License training.

The 171 student cadets onboard are applying classroom learning to real-world environments through daily training in navigation, engineering, maintenance, safety and security while attending classes. Training for marine transportation students includes standing watch to survey the waters and surrounding areas for possible dangers and abnormalities. Cadets William Flores ’24 and Kai Ethridge ’26 spotted the vessel near daybreak during their morning watch.

“Shortly after sunrise, a small black object was spotted in the distance. Maintaining a close watch, I could see the shape of a small vessel through my binoculars as we got closer,” Ethridge said. “We passed the vessel on our starboard side, and all of a sudden, three heads popped out of the small craft and started waving.”

Cadets reported the sighting to the captain, who began to work with the U.S. Coast Guard to initiate rescue protocols.

“Being a part of something like this was an amazing experience,” Flores said. “The actions of the captain and crew definitely saved the lives onboard. Everyone on the bridge has learned a lot, and now we will know what to do if we ever encounter a situation like this. Things could have gone a lot worse for all parties, but everything turned out OK in the end.”

The nearly 300 Texas A&M student cadets, faculty and crew onboard have resumed their route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the first port stop of the semester. While there, the academy is hosting a dock party with free festivities open to the public on June 13, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Guests can tour the ship, play games and learn more about the importance of marine, coastal and maritime training and education. Additional details are available online.

Learn more about the Texas A&M Maritime Academy and follow the ship route on the Summer Sea Term website.

Media contact: Rebecca Watts, 979-229-0902,

Related Stories

Recent Stories