Three hunters and a lab puppy escaped the dangerously cold water on Seneca Creek, thanks to a quick-thinking volunteer rescue crew.
The day before Thanksgiving, the three men went out in their 12-foot jon boat for an afternoon hunting with the 6-month old Labrador retriever. Not long after launching their boat, it took on water from a wave.
One of the hunters, Phil Givens, says the boat capsized, sending everyone, including the dog, into the 48-degree water. The dog’s owner grabbed life jacket and a dry bag to put under the pup, and swam it to shore. There, he stripped down and focused on warming the dog, Givens recalls.
Givens and the boat’s owner swam its overturned hull about 200 feet closer to shore, to where they could stand in chest-deep water. Givens says the cold set in after just five minutes, and it took 35–45 minutes for help to arrive. They continued to swim, “slow and steady”.
“As we swam we continue to talk, keeping each other calm, focused, and motivated. We heard someone yelling and looked over to the corner house (far away) and saw a person waving. I was thinking, Thank God. I hope they call for help.”
Marine Emergency Team 21 (MET 21) Chief Shannon Stallings says that waterfront neighbor did call for help, reporting a capsized boat with three people in the water about 200 yards offshore at the mouth of Seneca Creek.
The all-volunteer emergency response crew came in their boat, Marine Unit 217, prepared with two rescue swimmers suited up in insulated dry suits. MET 21 helped the hunters right their boat and get out of the water.
Rescuers returned the victims and as much of their gear as could be salvaged back to Porters Seneca Marina. Despite the 48-degree water temperature and 52 degree air temperature, the victims refused additional medical attention. But they were grateful MET 21 showed up when they did.
“When help arrived they were so fast, friendly, knowledgeable and extremely experienced. They instructed us what to do and it was clear they are professionals,” Givens says. “We, along with our families, are very appreciative of the help and rescue from a deadly situation,” Givens says of the incident.
The dry suits worn by the MET 21 rescue swimmers were brand new, purchased with four others using $8,900 in funds raised by community supporters in the marine community. The rescue swimmers, all volunteers, receive training from the U.S. Coast Guard, University of Maryland Fire Rescue Institute, and other training entities that certify swimmers for open water, swift water, and surface water rescues.
-Meg Walburn Viviano