Two days before Marquis Cooper set off on an ill-fated fishing trip, the NFL player was casting for redfish off New Port Richey with fishing guide Clay Eavenson, an old friend.
Cooper invited Eavenson to go offshore fishing with him Saturday morning. Eavenson couldn't make it but he had a pressing question for his friend.
Do you have an EPIRB?
An emergency position indicating radio beacon, EPIRB for short, transmits GPS coordinates and radio signals that Coast Guard rescuers can use to locate boats in distress. It can cost $400 to $1,400 but can be a life saver.
Cooper had never heard of it.
Eavenson explained how important it was and urged him to buy one. Cooper agreed.
He apparently didn't buy it before heading into the Gulf of Mexico with fellow NFL player Corey Smith and former USF football players Will Bleakley and Nich Schuyler.
The four were anchored 38 miles off Egmont Key when Cooper's 21-ft. boat was hit by a wave and capsized.
The Coast never received an emergency distress signal from the boat.
Typical EPIRBS are mounted on a hydrostatic release and self-activate when their vessel capsizes. Smaller personal models are also available.
"The thing I want to come out of this is people need to become aware," Eavenson, a close friend of Cooper and his wife, said today. "He was not aware of what one was, and he would have had one had he known.
"He told me he was going to go buy one. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of people that do what Marquis did without knowing what is available."