Flotilla Assists Boaters In Need

ST. MARYS — Coast Guard Auxiliary patrol boat Santa Maria headed home to its base on Grand Lake after a quiet safety and training patrol. At 6 p.m., Sunday, lookout Mike McKay, of Dayton, reported a boat circling the Santa Maria at very high speed.

The Velocity-built race boat turned sharply at high speed across the patrol boat’s wake and went airborne. Three passengers were violently thrown through the air into the water.  None of the three was wearing a life preserver.  The race boat’s bow came up sharply, the stern quarter fell back, and the vessel began taking on water.

The race boat stopped abruptly, partially swamped, and the engine dead. McKay reported the incident to coxswain Loren Gannon, of Centerville, who immediately reversed course to assist the boaters.

As the race boat righted itself, one passenger, immediately alongside, clambered back aboard. A second person, about 10 yards away, had a boat fender for flotation.

The third person landed about 15 yards distant with a small broken fender as his only survival aid; inadequate to keep him afloat. With his head just above water, he was gasping for breath, and appeared to be very distressed.  

The crew of the patrol boat quickly went into action.  Galen Siler, of Manchester, supervised trainees Denis Knapschaefer of Cold Water and Kevin Mast, of Celina, who threw life buoys to the two persons still in the water. The swimmer closest to the distressed vessel indicated he was OK and he was floating well.

Santa Maria came alongside the other person who was struggling but had grabbed hold of the life ring thrown to him.  The crew hooked the life ring with a boat hook and dragged this person to the swim platform of the patrol boat.  He got a foot on the swim ladder, and Mast and McKay lifted him under the arms onto the swim platform.  

This man appeared close to going into shock. He was warmed and comforted and was taken into the cockpit of the Santa Maria where he very quickly recuperated.

He was asked if he had any medical problems and if he required medical assistance. He said he did not. When asked if he wanted the Auxiliary to take him to shore or return him to the race boat, he chose to go back aboard the race boat.  

By this time, it had been pumped out, its engine restarted, and the other swimmer was aboard.  The patrol boat came alongside the race boat and transferred the third man back aboard.

All parties are reported to be safe and well.   The day of training for Knapschaefer and Mast became a much more realistic training experience than anyone expected.