USCG Honors TowBoatUS Captains For Rescue


TowBoatUS Captains Mattie Suggs, and her husband Rodney, pictured below, have been honored by the USCG with a Good Samaritan Certificate of Appreciation for their roles in rescuing seven boaters in April.

(Read Mattie's story, in her own words, below)

Being the local dispatcher and captain for TowBoatUS Clear Lake, I am always expecting a call to come in that a vessel is broken down, and in need of assistance. After all, that’s what we do here at TowBoatUS, we tow boats; but what a lot of people don’t realize is that we do more than just tow boats. Sometimes a call will come in where there is no time to think about an action, only time to react, and react quickly. Friday April 22, 2011, was one of those days, where the quickness of our actions not only saved one person’s life but the lives of seven people.

Captains Rodney and Mattie Suggs pose on the boat they helped rescue the swimmers with.

I received a call from central dispatch at 1408. The dispatcher, proceeded to explain that a sailing vessel was disabled right outside of Kemah Boardwalk and there were several persons in the water being swept further from the boat because of the wind and sea conditions. I requested that the dispatcher patch the caller through to me. I asked his current location and requested a contact number. I explained that we were getting underway, ETA 5-10 minutes.

Within 2 minutes, Captain Rodney and I had boarded TowBoatUS Vessel 1 and were in route. I immediately contacted the Coast Guard over VHF to make them aware of the situation. The stated location of the disabled boat was approximately one quarter nautical mile off the Kemah Boardwalk, which meant that their location was less than a half nautical mile from our home port. Upon reaching the bay I noticed the disabled sailboat directly to port and we headed in their direction constantly looking for heads bobbing in the water. Upon arrival, because of high wind and sea conditions, at first we could not see anyone in the water. The six or so people on board started pointing and yelling towards our starboard. We turned and finally spotted one person about 500 yards off our starboard beam and proceeded to pluck him from the water. He stated that six other persons were in the water, all without life jackets. We started the search for the other six people not knowing if they were all together or also separated like the man we just rescued. He pointed us in the direction of Kemah channel markers 3 and 4 and stated they were trying to swim in that direction in an attempt to reach the markers. We turned and slowly started heading in that direction.

About a half mile out from the first man’s location we were able to get a visual on six other heads bobbing up and down in the water. When we reached the six individuals, Captain Rodney Suggs started helping, one at a time, to bring them aboard. One man, completely exhausted, required extra effort to bring on board. We came to learn that just before our arrival he had started to panic and had ingested a lot of salt water. One of the other rescued men informed us that had we not arrived as soon as we did, the other man surely would have drowned. All seven men were very thankful and appreciative of our actions.

Upon making sure that all seven men were not in need of any medical assistance we turned our attention to the disabled sailboat in order to tow them back to their home dock. We later learned three of the men in the water were military personnel on vacation out of Miami, and so they were unaware of the danger that the wind and powerful tide would have on their leisurely swim. They were all very grateful and said we had saved their lives.

By speaking with the owner of the vessel and the rescued swimmers we came to learn that the seven men jumped in the water to enjoy a swim. None of them were wearing life jackets. Upon entering the water they felt the tide sweeping them further away from the boat. At the same time, the wind and sea conditions were taking the boat in the opposite direction, away from the swimmers. When the owner of the sailboat started the motor, to attempt to get to the swimmers, a dock line fouled the prop and rendered the boat disabled. They immediately dropped anchor, but failed to put out enough rode, so the anchor started to drag and at that point everyone concerned knew they were in trouble. It was then that the captain of the sailboat called TowBoatU.S.

Captains Mattie and Rodney Suggs, of TowBoatUS Clear Lake, Galveston, with the seven swimmers they helped save.

After the boat was towed safely to their home port, the owner of the sail vessel said that he was “so glad” to be a member of TowBoatUS. Not knowing who else to call he called the 800 number, on his card, which put him in direct contact with us.

After mentally reviewing the day’s happenings I can honestly state that I am proud to be part of an organization like TowBoatUS; proud to be a part of an association that gives you the resources to make a difference in someone’s life. I love my job!