The two men were paddling a canoe about half a mile off of their dock on sportsman road when they turned over and were thrown in the water. They were not wearing life jackets and the water was cold. Although they could swim they began to tire quickly as their heat and energy were sucked away. Their movements became slower and slower as they struggled to maintain their heads above water.
Fortunately, unbeknownst to them, someone spotted them from the porch of a house with binoculars and called 911. As they gradually lost their battle with the elements, help was on its way in the form of the Galveston Fire Department, Jamaica Beach Fire Rescue, Galveston Police Department, Galveston EMS, and the Beach Patrol. This coordinated rescue team, the Galveston Marine Response (G.M.R.) all worked off a shared radio channel to figure out how best to effect a rescue using the available resources. The fire and police departments arrived and searched the area to locate the victims while others brought boats from the nearest staged locations. EMS staged in the most likely place for the rescuers to return to shore.
From the Beach Patrol perspective, Supervisors Kris Pompa and Lauren Holloway grabbed the jet ski we keep staged at 61st street and headed directly to the nearest launch site from the incident. By the time they arrived at the Sportsman Road boat launch, the other responders had a good visual on the overturned canoe. Kris and Lauren pulled up to find someone they knew pulling up in a boat. To save the time it would take to launch they asked if they could jump in, and the boat went straight to the accident site.
When they approached one of the guys was swimming around, but the other was starting to go under. Kris grabbed his rescue tube and dove off the boat. As Kris brought the victim to the boat after making the rescue, the other guy swam over and they helped him in the boat. Heading back quickly to the dock, EMS checked out the two guys, both suffering from mild hypothermia.
This story had a happy ending because of the same teamwork that these agencies employ all year. Sometimes Jamaica Beach will have the closest boat, other times with will be GFD or GPD. But now that we have a system in place, more people with more qualifications get to these water emergencies more rapidly. And save more lives.
Last weekend the same groups, along with the crews from Ironman, a kayak club, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary all coordinated together to get 1,900 or so triathletes through the mile long swim course. 22 rescues and 208 swim assists were effected, but everyone left in good condition. Later that day some of the same people from the same groups saw each other several more times as we dealt with various beach emergencies. And there will be many more to come.
The busy season is just starting.