Search narrows for NFL players off Fla. Gulf Coast

Nick Schuyler is wheeled into Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla., on Monday. Schuyler, a former University of South Florida football player, was rescued off the Florida coast. Three other men remain missing after their boat flipped over about 35 miles off Clearwater, Fla. The 21-foot boat was anchored in rough seas when it flipped, Schuyler said. Alexandra Zayas, The Associated Press

AP

Nick Schuyler is wheeled into Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla., on Monday. Schuyler, a former University of South Florida football player, was rescued off the Florida coast. Three other men remain missing after their boat flipped over about 35 miles off Clearwater, Fla. The 21-foot boat was anchored in rough seas when it flipped, Schuyler said. Alexandra Zayas, The Associated Press

By Christine Armario

TAMPA, Fla. – Coast Guard searchers on Monday narrowed the search area for two NFL players and a third man missing since a weekend fishing trip off the Florida Gulf Coast after crews rescued a fourth man clinging to their capsized boat.

Survivor Nick Schuyler, a former University of South Florida player, told rescuers that the boat the four friends were aboard was anchored when it flipped Saturday evening in rough seas, said Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close. Since then, Schuyler, who was wearing a life vest, had been hanging onto the boat found by a Coast Guard cutter 35 miles off Clearwater.

Schuyler said the other three men got separated from the boat. The 21-footer belongs to Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, who, along with free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley, remain missing.

Schuyler was conscious but appeared weak as he was being taken off a helicopter at Tampa General Hospital. His father said his son was in serious but stable condition and that he “looks OK.”The family’s joy at him being found alive was tempered by the search for his friends.

“We still have three men missing, and we’re not going to talk too much until we find these guys,” said his father, Stuart Schuyler. “We’re all praying for them. These guys are all very close friends.”The search area is now “substantially smaller,” based on where they found the boat and Schuyler, Close said. Searchers had previously covered 16,000 square miles of ocean.

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    The water temperature in the area was 68 degrees. After 18 hours in 64-degree water, hypothermia will set in, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class James Harless. How long someone can survive depends on how big the person is, he said. Cooper is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, and Smith, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds.

    The four friends left Clearwater Pass early Saturday in calm weather, but heavy winds picked up through the day and the seas got heavy, with waves of 7 feet and higher, peaking at 15 feet on Sunday. A relative alerted the Coast Guard early Sunday after the men did not return as expected.