By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - Three boaters fishing about 8 miles northeast of the St. Lucie Inlet found a valuable catch.
But they were in for a surprise when they hauled in the nearly 42-pound package they found floating unattended.
The red, soft-sided cooler floating in the water contained more than 41 pounds of cocaine valued at about $500,000, according to Rhonda Irons, spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff's Office.
When Michael Scott James, Paula Draskovic and Kelly Chess opened the container, they informed law enforcement about the narcotics, investigators said.
Detective Travis Dykes and Deputy Justin Lundstedt responded to the three boaters who found the cooler afloat in the inlet on the Atlantic Ocean.
When the officers opened the package, they found it contained 16 vacuum-sealed packaged containing 41.5 pounds of cocaine.
The incident took place on Sept. 3.
Investigators said at press time they did not know where the drugs originated and the investigation was ongoing.
They also said investigators had no leads in the case, and the fishermen were not suspects.
The boaters first reported their discovery to the U.S. Coast Guard, who passed on the information to the Martin County Sheriff's Office.
"Deputies conducted a search of the area and were unable to locate any other vessels. The three boaters are witnesses, not suspects. The cocaine has been seized as evidence and will be scheduled for destruction," officials said in a press release.