Family rescued after being stranded on island near St. Helena during Tropical Storm Elsa

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Authorities rescued a West Virginia family after a trip to Otter Island left them stranded Wednesday night during Tropical Storm Elsa.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Savannah’s Air Station rescued five women — a woman, her daughter, and three cousins — after the woman’s husband had radioed in that they were stranded on the island northeast of St. Helena, according to a Coast Guard news release.

Skipper Clay Emminger with Beaufort Water Search and Rescue said his group’s boats were en route to help with the rescue effort when, at 9 p.m., the Coast Guard told them the family stuck on the island was hoisted into the helicopter.

The family was visiting from West Virginia and had earlier in the day taken their 21-foot Carolina skiff from Edisto Beach to Otter Island, according to Emminger.

Neither Emminger nor a spokesperson for the Coast Guard knew whether the family was aware that Tropical Storm Elsa was quickly approaching.

Attempts to identify and reach the family on Friday were unsuccessful.

Their 21-foot skiff drifted away from Otter Island as Elsa was picking up. The husband left his family and swam to a nearby shrimp boat to radio for help, according to the Coast Guard.

Emminger said his group heard a radio call about it and immediately called the Coast Guard to ask if they needed assistance. Elsa was not in full swing, but the weather was worsening.

Emminger said the waves were 6 to 8 feet high.

“We were trying to hurry as fast as we could,” he said.

They had boats in the water around 9 p.m., racing toward Otter Island from Port Royal. The Coast Guard helicopter reached the family first. Emminger’s boaters went to rescue the husband still on the shrimp boat.

They took him to Lady’s Island, where the S.C. Department of Natural Resources took him by land back to Edisto Beach.

“We were very happy that we got them out before the worst,” Emminger said.