When recreational boaters are in grave trouble, the captains of the on-water recreational boat-towing service, TowBoatUS, don’t hesitate to act. Six captains who acted as good Samaritans to save lives in 2018 were recently honored by their peers at a ceremony held at the annual BoatUS Towing Conference in Arlington, Virginia, on Jan. 17.
The captains serve TowBoatUS towing locations in South Dade, Florida; Tarpon Springs, Florida; Mystic, Connecticut; Long Beach, California; and Lake Havasu, California. These are their actions:
Woody Pollack Lifesaving Award
- Capt. Lee Hartman, TowBoatUS South Dade, Florida: A man aboard a 40-foot motor vessel tied up to a marina fuel dock had a heart attack and fell overboard into alligator-infested waters – but no one saw it happen. Only a loud bang followed by a splash gave an eerie feeling to Capt. Hartman who, in a frantic yet systematic search, was able to locate and pull the man out from under the motor vessel’s transom, where his body had been pinned underwater against the boat’s propellers and rudder by an outgoing tide. With assistance from bystanders, the man was removed from the water and rushed to the hospital where he spent a week recovering.
Meritorious Service Awards
- Capt. Jason Ness, TowBoatUS Tarpon Springs, Florida: While attempting a backflip off a 65-foot-high bridge, a teenager experienced a severe spinal injury and was nearly lifeless in the water. With the help of another teen, Capt. Ness was able to retrieve the boy and rush him to shore for hospitalization.
- Capt. Alex Alberg, TowBoatUS Mystic, Connecticut: A gust of wind and a jammed cleat conspired to spill a family of three generations of sailors aboard a small boat into the choppy waters of Fisher’s Island Sound. Capt. Alberg pulled two children from the water who were then transported to shore by local law enforcement.
- Capt. Mike Del Grande, TowBoatUS Long Beach, California, and Jeff Perez: A story that made national headlines, an elderly mother and son in a pickup truck crashed through a pedestrian guardrail into Long Beach Harbor. As the truck slid into deeper water and its passenger cab was slowly submerging, the two were rescued by Capt. Del Grande and Perez with assistance from another good Samaritan
- Capt. Kevin McKinney, TowBoatUS Lake Havasu, California: A young teen and his father went for a swim off their boat, but winds pushed the boat away preventing a safe return. The teen, who was wearing a life jacket, struggled to keep his exhausted father’s head above water until McKinney arrived in the nick of time and safely retrieved both.