TowBoatUS Boat-Towing Captains from Del., Fla., and N.C. Honored for Lifesaving Acts
Last year, more than 70,000 recreational boaters requested routine on-water assistance for soft ungroundings, jump-starts, fuel delivery or to tow their disabled vessels home. For the responding captains of the nationwide TowBoatUS 24/7 on-water towing service, however, their service to America’s boaters was far from routine. Nine TowBoatUS captains who acted as good Samaritans to save lives in 2020 were recently honored by their peers at a ceremony held today, virtually, at the annual BoatUS Towing Conference.
The captains serve TowBoatUS on-water towing locations in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay, Florida; Bethany Beach, Delaware; and Beaufort, North Carolina.
Woody Pollak Lifesaving Award
Capt. Harrison Reiter and Capt. George Bassett, TowBoatUS Fort Lauderdale, Florida: When an elderly couple inadvertently hit full throttle in their small inflatable boat causing it to crash and dump both occupants into the water, captains Reiter and Bassett responded. As the unmanned boat dangerously circled its former occupants, Capt. Bassett maneuvered the towing vessel into the small boat’s path and activated the engine kill switch. However, attempts to lift the female from the water onto a dock were foiled as her pant leg had been snagged by the inflatable’s propeller, leaving her head underwater and lungs filling with water. As Capt. Bassett held the woman from above allowing periodic breaths, Capt. Reiter dove under the inflatable and cut the woman’s pant leg from the inflatable boat’s prop, allowing her to surface and saving her from a certain drowning. After spending a night in the hospital, the woman was released with a clean bill of health.
Meritorious Service Awards
· Capt. Ed Jazwierski, TowBoatUS Tampa Bay, Florida: On the
afternoon of July 17, a 24-foot fishing vessel, 15 miles offshore with three
anglers aboard, requested emergency assistance. Five-to 6-foot seas with heavy
rain and low visibility slowed Capt. Jazwierski’s progress, but he soon located
the overturned vessel, anchored, without a soul in sight. By tossing floating
objects into the water to establish drift, “Capt. Jaz” quickly set up a search
pattern and soon located the boat’s three occupants who were wearing life
jackets and clutching a cooler in the rough seas. All returned home safe.
· Capt. Matt Ostrem, TowBoatUS Tampa
Bay, Florida: A mayday call coming from a 19-foot vessel with six
persons aboard set Capt. Matt Ostrem into action. Without concern for the rough
seas, he headed out and was able to quickly locate the partially submerged
vessel. However, heavy rains lowered visibility, and he could not see any
occupants. After a brief search, he found all in the water wearing life jackets
and quickly brought them aboard making a safe return.
· Capt. Daimin Barth, TowBoatUS Tampa Bay, Florida: While
towing another vessel down a river channel, Capt. Barth heard a voice calling
for help: “Help! Hey, hey, Captain!” On his starboard side, he found a young
man in the water frantically waving his arms in distress. With his customer
still in tow, Capt. Barth was able to maneuver his response vessel to the
distressed man and safely pull him aboard. The young man had made a bet with
his friends that he could swim the length of the channel, but instead the
current had been taking him to sea, exhausted and without a life jacket. Other
passing vessels had not noticed the man seeking rescue.
· Capt. Richard Walls Jr., TowBoatUS
Indian River, Delaware: After a long day, Capt. Walls pulled into home
port when he heard a woman’s distressed voice asking, “Anybody out there who
can help me?” He immediately headed back out to find the source of the voice.
With the help of another good Samaritan, he soon located the woman and a man
who appeared to be in cardiac arrest on a nearby island. Unable to move him,
Capt. Walls administered CPR, even after U.S. Coast Guard responders arrived.
Unfortunately the man passed, however, Capt. Walls provided the victim with the
best chance of survivability.
· Capt. Cody Garner, TowBoatUS
Beaufort, North Carolina: On Friday, November 14, a vessel was
reported overturned with two persons in the water. Capt. Garner immediately
launched and arrived at the location within 15 minutes where he found not two
but three persons in the water. After notifying the U.S. Coast Guard, he
quickly retrieved all victims, who had no injuries, and safely transported them
back to shore to thankful family members.
· Capt. Crockett Henderson, TowBoatUS Beaufort, North Carolina: Capt.
Henderson was towing a disabled vessel on the Intracoastal Waterway near a
bridge span when a tug and barge approached from the opposite direction. Once
the vessels safety passed, Capt. Henderson turned his head to see the tug and
barge run over a pontoon boat anchored just outside the channel. The pontoon’s
two occupants popped up in the tug’s wake. Capt. Henderson immediately directed
his customer to anchor, dropped his tow and raced over to two people – one
unconscious – in the water. With the help of another good Samaritan, the
unconscious person was brought aboard and CPR administered. While the person
later died from injuries, the other pontoon boat occupant survived.
· Capt. Steve Reuss, TowBoatUS Fort Lauderdale, Florida: A five-man crew was aboard a 34-foot vessel fishing 20 miles offshore when the weather started to change. As conditions deteriorated, they pulled anchor and headed to shore but things quickly worsened, with wind gusts to 50 knots and 8-foot-high, closely spaced waves. As water piled up in the open boat, the owner made a mayday call and had all passengers don life jackets before ordering them to abandon ship. Smartly, he had grabbed a handheld VHF radio before going in the water. Responding, Capt. Reuss quickly headed into the worsening sea state and with help of TowBoatUS Fort Lauderdale dispatch was able to use his onboard radio direction finder and the strength of the man’s VHF radio communications to locate the anglers in the water. With additional good Samaritan assistance provided by another towing company arriving on scene, all five were rescued without injury.
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