FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A 20-hour, high-speed chase after a stolen boat in the Gulf of Mexico on Christmas Eve began like a scene from an action movie, law enforcement authorities said.
The Coast Guard returned the stolen vessel and three suspects in handcuffs to shore Sunday.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was conducting overnight patrols targeting boat thefts when they were alerted to a theft in progress early Thursday in Fort Myers Beach, about 125 miles south of Tampa.
When officers arrived, the suspects allegedly attempted to ram their vessel with the stolen boat.
“It was like something out of a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie,” said Sheriff Mike Scott.
“We were able to get out of the way at the last second,” said Lt. Chris Nyce, “or they would have come right over us.”
Deputies requested Coast Guard assistance in pursuing the “go-fast” vessel equipped with three 300-horse power engines.
The open-water chase covered over 345 miles before it ended about 125 miles east of Cancun, Mexico, and about 65 miles west of Cuba, authorities said.
The 33-foot, center-console boat, a model in the Invincible line, is worth about $350,000, Scott said.
The Coast Guard contributed three aircraft and two vessels to the pursuit, and its officers returned the suspects and stolen boat to shore.
Coast Guard officials told the News-Press (http://newspr.es/1QUuzn2 ) that the suspects include a Mexican national and two permanent, legal U.S. residents. The suspects’ names have not been released.
One suspect with an apparent leg injury was taken to a hospital, according to the sheriff’s office.