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Coast Guard defends response policy after boater death

Coast Guard officials in Texas said they don't intend to change their policy for responding to calls from stranded boaters, despite the weekend death of a man who was found under a capsized boat in Nueces Bay.

Willie Ramirez, 53, was pronounced dead Saturday night after the engine on his family's boat seized and the boat later flipped, Capt. Bob Paulison of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper.

Ramirez was on the 14-foot powerboat with his son and other relatives, officials said.

Noemi Rodriguez told the Coast Guard that her boat was stranded in Nueces Bay and she needed help, Coast Guard officials said. Officials said no one on the boat was in immediate danger, so the operator gave Rodriguez a phone number for a private towing company.

Paulison said that is standard procedure. The Coast Guard is not intended to be a towing, refueling or mechanic service for boaters, but a first responder in emergencies where lives are at risk, he said.

If the situation were dire, Paulison said, the Coast Guard would not have been able to respond in the shallow waters of Nueces Bay, and would have called on the Department of Parks and Wildlife to navigate the four- to five-foot depths.

Because there was no indication of imminent danger, Paulison said the family should have used one of the tow services.

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