(L to R) Captains Harrison Reiter and George Bassett of TowBoatUS Fort Lauderdale received the coveted Woody Pollak Lifesaving Award for their good Samaritan rescue. Download hi-res photo
SPRINGFIELD, Va., January 20, 2021 – 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 notifiying 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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Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation's leading advocate, services and safety group for recreational boaters. We are the Boat Owners Auto Club and provide our more than 700,000 members with a wide array of helpful services, including 24-hour on-water towing that gets you safely home when your boat won’t, jump starts, fuel delivery, and soft ungroundings. The TowBoatUS towing fleet is North America’s largest network of towing ports with more than 300 locations and over 600 red towing assistance vessels, responding to more than 70,000 requests for assistance each year. The BoatUS App makes it easy to summon water and road assistance 24/7 and can speed response times (BoatUS.com/App). For more information go to BoatUS.com/Towing.