Video: Reef Rescue

updated 5/24/2008 12:07:07 PM ET 2008-05-24T16:07:07

Two missing scuba divers from the United States and Britain were rescued Saturday after spending a night floating in the ocean over Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

After a nightlong search involving more than a dozen aircraft, a plane crew spotted the missing pair floating Saturday morning nine miles (14 kilometers) from where they had been diving near the Whitsunday Islands off the eastern coast.

They were winched aboard a helicopter and flown to a hospital in Queensland, police said.

A local official credits the divers' survival to their experience and ability to remain calm.

"They strapped themselves together using their weight belts, they conserved energy, stayed as a pair and awaited rescue," Queensland state police Superintendent Shane Chelepy said.

He said the pair — a 40-year-old American woman and 38-year-old British man — became lost Friday afternoon when they resurfaced after diving on a reef and found themselves 200 yards from their chartered dive boat.

An air search began off the tropical east coast after they failed to rejoin the dive boat at the scheduled time.

Three aircraft, including a specialized search plane with infrared night vision equipment, searched into Friday night. The search was expanded at first light with seven helicopters and three more planes.

Police have not identified the divers or said where they come from in their countries.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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