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Dramatic Rescue Off Lauderdale After Mega-Yacht Sinks

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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) - More than a dozen people were rescued after a mega-yacht went down off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale.

The 106 foot Serena III was about 13 miles off shore when a distress signal was sent out that the vessel was taking on water.

"Mayday, mayday, mayday mayday mayday. This is yacht Serena 3, this is yacht Serena 3. We are sinking, we are sinking, we are sinking."

Sea Tow Captain Tim Morgan said less than two hours later the yacht was gone.

"It just gradually took on more and more water and then it went down by the stern and rolled then. Then it went under the waves," said Morgan.

The Coast Guard said the six passengers, six crew members and captain who were onboard the yacht pulled to safety.

"We were able to safely remove the 13 people onboard, no injuries, no medical concerns," said Coast Guard Lt. Tasha Sadowicz.

Sadowicz added they got some help from some nearby fishing boats.

"It was a really hectic situation," said a Coast Guard Jon-Paul Rios. "We had choppy seas, high winds, it wasn't the most favorable weather but at the same time we have some of the most efficient crews when it comes to search and rescue, so they were able to do it successfully."

Those rescued were taken to Coast Guard's Miami Beach station to be checked out.

Morgan and three Sea Tow boats managed to pluck a wave runner from the yacht as well as a life raft that was deployed off to rescue people onboard.

Morgan said in the dark with the water rushing into the yacht, it was impossible to save.

"The amount of water it was taking and how quickly the boat sank, really, I don't think much anybody would have been able to do," Morgan said.

The Serena III was on its way to Freeport, Bahamas on a month long trip when she went down.

"We were going to the Bahamas to enjoy ourselves. It's a pity because I was looking forward to doing this one," said the yacht's first officer Perry Thomas.

Thomas said the six passengers were a family from Rio de Janeiro. He said around 6 p.m. they noticed they were in trouble.

"We noticed we were tilting toward the left and the captain went down to check it he came up and said we were taking on water," said Perry. "It happened pretty quickly. She started tilting, we got the owners in the first life raft."

Video from the Coast Guard shows the final ten minutes or so as the yacht tilted, bow up and then sunk.

"We had 8 pumps ready to deploy. I even think if we got those going it wouldn't have mattered," said Morgan.

The Coast Guard's preliminary investigation is focusing on whether the yacht may struck the bottom as it left Port Everglades.

"There may have been a possible grounding on the way out of Port Everglades and it wasn't noticed until they were further offshore," said Sadowicz

Investigators are checking to see if a shaft that attaches from inside the boat to a stabilizer on the bottom may have fallen out.

"If that had actually dropped out through the hull, that's going to leave a hole, 6 to 8 inches. and start flooding," said Morgan.

The yacht sank in water which is approximately 1,200 feet deep.  It will be up to the yacht's owner as to whether they will attempt to salvage the wreckage.

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