Sea Tow Services International Inc., the nation’s leading on-water assistance provider, honored individual members of the Sea Tow network for Life Saving Efforts and for Efforts Above and Beyond the call of duty at the Sea Tow Awards Banquet on November 20, 2013. The event, which also celebrated Sea Tow’s 30thAnniversary, capped the organization’s 2013 Annual Meeting held in Charlotte, N.C., on November 18-21.
Keynote speaker, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral William “Dean” Lee, Deputy for Operations Policy and Capabilities, opened the Annual Awards Banquet by thanking Sea Tow’s U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Captains, franchise owners and support staff for their ongoing partnership with the Coast Guard in promoting boating safety and aiding maritime rescue operations across the country.
Rear Admiral Lee joined Sea Tow Founder & CEO Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer and Chief Operating Officer Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer III in presenting the following awards to Sea Tow Captains who were “local heroes” in the past year.
Sea Tow Citations for Life Saving Efforts: _These awards are presented to members of the Sea Tow network whom, while on duty during the past year, have rescued or attempted to rescue any person from drowning, shipwreck or accident in the maritime domain. The 2013 honorees were:
Sea Tow Fort Lauderdale Captains Robert Casey and Greg Mallek, and Franchise Owner Captain Timothy Morgan:Just past midday on November 22, 2012, Thanksgiving Day, in Hillsboro Inlet, Capt. Casey relieved Capt. Mallek on patrol and headed out in his 33-foot Sea Tow boat. It was bright and sunny with winds blowing from the north at 22-25 knots and stronger gusts pushing hard against the north-flowing Gulf Steam, producing five to seven-foot seas and occasional seas greater than eight feet at the inlet’s entrance. While heading outbound, Capt. Casey spotted a 45-foot catamaran in the Atlantic Ocean proceeding towards the inlet. As the boat turned into the inlet, the vessel lost forward momentum and instantly capsized, sending 23 people into the water. Miraculously, someone on the boat was able to issue a Mayday call to the Coast Guard, which also prompted Sea Tow Capts. Morgan and Mallek to respond.
Without hesitation or concern for his own safety, Capt. Casey negotiated through the inlet’s rough conditions towards the wreck. Exhibiting expert seamanship and boat handling skills, he deftly maneuvered his boat through the debris field to the largest group of survivors, and single-handedly rescued nine people, including a 14-year-old-girl and the boat’s captain. Meanwhile, Captains Morgan and Mallek arrived on scene in separate boats. Between them, they rescued the remaining people from the water. All three returned their survivors ashore, or transferred them to awaiting law enforcement boats. Capt. Mallek returned to the capsized boat, and dove beneath it to verify that no one was trapped inside or under the wreck. Although all the boat’s passengers were accounted for, one person died as a result of the accident. However, if not for the selfless actions and courage of the Sea Tow Captains, more people could have perished.
Sea Tow Lower New York Owner and Captain Cody Catapano: Late on the night of December 14, 2012, Capt. Catapano responded to a Mayday call from a mariner whose boat was on fire in Jamaica Bay, N.Y. Soon after initial notification, Capt. Catapano lost communications with the distressed boat. He quickly told the Coast Guard that he and a deckhand were underway to the scene. He also called New York Police Department Aviation and verified that a harbor unit was also underway heading to the boat’s last known position. The weather was clear and very cold, with air temperatures in the mid-20s and a water temperature of between 38-40 degrees. Winds were blowing at roughly 15 knots creating a moderate chop on the water. In addition, aids to navigation had been disrupted and large areas of shoreline lights were still out following Super Storm Sandy, which created additional navigation challenges.
Within minutes of receiving the first call, Capt. Catapano arrived on scene to a boat fully engulfed in flames. Maintaining a vigilant lookout for survivors, Catapano caught a flash of light away from the boat and against the darkened shoreline. Based on local knowledge, he knew there should not be a light there and made the decision to move towards it. Upon verifying that it was person waving a mobile phone, Catapano moved alongside the person, who was the boat owner, sitting in a deflated toy raft. Catapano and his deckhand quickly pulled the survivor aboard the Sea Tow boat, got him into the cabin and wrapped him in blankets. A quick vitals check revealed he was okay, but suffering from hypothermia. Catapano verified that no one else was aboard the burning vessel. Catapano notified law enforcement and then proceeded to bring the survivor to shore, while a New York Fire Department marine unit extinguished the boat fire. If not for Catapano’s vigilant lookout, local knowledge and intuition, this person may have perished due to hypothermia.
Sea Tow Fort Lauderdale Captain Robert Casey: Just after midnight on January 1, 2013, Capt. Casey was patrolling an area of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s New River where numerous waterfront bars line the shore. As Casey slowly made his way along the waterfront in his Sea Tow boat, people on shore began yelling at him and pointing to the dark, murky water. Casey spotted a young man who apparently had fallen in. He was drifting with the current and was barely able to keep his head above the surface.
Capt. Casey expertly maneuvered his boat close enough to single-handedly pull the young man into the boat. The man, who was extremely intoxicated, heavy, and soaked to the bone, was unable to help as Casey struggled to pull him aboard. Casey delivered the man to emergency services waiting ashore. There is no doubt that had Capt. Casey not been in the right place at the right time, this young man would have perished at the start of the New Year.
Sea Tow Miami Captain Brett Sternbach: On the afternoon of January 28, 2013, Capt. Sternbach heard a distress call about a boat collision in the Molloy Channel, north of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Another broadcast made by Miami Beach Fire Rescue followed, asking for a boat pickup near the vicinity of the collision and also requesting a propeller wrench. Sternbach immediately got underway with a propeller wrench, which is a standard tool on the Sea Tow boat. He picked up three firefighters and proceeded to the scene.
Upon arrival, they learned that a family had rented a 19-foot boat and taken their 5-year old boy and 14-year old girl tubing. The boat operator struck the children while trying to pick them up after the children fell off the tube. The boy had injuries to his legs and was on the boat. However, the girl was still trapped between the boat’s propeller and cavitation plate, suffering from deep propeller cuts on her legs. In a well-executed team effort, one firefighter held up the girl while another loosened the prop with the wrench. Sternbach removed the propeller, freeing the girl. Sternbach and the fire fighters got the girl, the boy, and their mother aboard the Sea Tow boat and transported them to the Mount Sinai Hospital seawall for treatment of their injuries. Due to outstanding port partner relationships, the rapid response by Sea Tow and the assistance of Miami Beach Fire Rescue personnel, the young girl and little boy recovered from their traumatic and potentially life-threatening injuries.
Sea Tow Shinnecock/Moriches Owner Captain Les Trafford: Early on the afternoon of May 12, 2013, Capt. Trafford was notified about a 45-foot trawler, the Pauline IV, which had capsized on a sandbar with two persons aboard. Within 10 minutes, Capt. Trafford in his 24-foot Sea Tow boat arrived at the inlet. It was a bright, sunny and gusty day with winds blowing steadily from the southwest at 20 knots with higher gusts. Short-period 6- to 12-foot waves were battering the Shinnecock Inlet sandbar. As Trafford approached the bar, he expertly read the conditions, determined he could make it through the surf zone, and circled ocean-side and east of the bar to where the Pauline had capsized and was bottom-side-up, leaving a debris field. Remaining in deep water, Trafford searched the east side of the bar. He patiently scanned the debris field but did not locate survivors. A Suffolk County Police helicopter arrived on scene and commenced a search. While near the debris field, the helicopter crew located a person clinging to a lobster buoy one mile offshore to the east of the bar, and directed Capt. Trafford to the location for pickup.
Demonstrating expert boat handling skills, determination and focus, Trafford quickly clipped a life ring to his towline, then maneuvered his boat to within 10 feet of the conscious deckhand and quickly pulled him on to his boat. Remaining focused, Trafford verified there were only two persons aboard the Pauline, and learned the boat’s captain never came out of the cabin when it was caught by a large following sea and immediately capsized. Trafford and the deckhand continued to search for the Pauline’s captain, but finished their efforts when relieved by the Coast Guard. Sadly, the captain’s body later was recovered. Trafford returned the deckhand to shore and delivered him to a waiting ambulance. Capt. Trafford’s actions that day led directly to saving the deckhand’s life.
Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach Captain Daniel Smith: Early in the evening of August 24, 2013, Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach received a call from a Sea Tow member with three additional people aboard a 23-foot boat, which had broken down and required assistance. The boat was located approximately 10 miles west of Cedar Key, Fla., in the Gulf of Mexico. Capt. Smith headed out within minutes in a 26-foot Sea Tow boat toward the boaters’ last known position. Soon after he departed, the weather changed drastically. Smith entered an area of severe thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy rain and near-zero visibility where sustained winds speeds rapidly escalated to 45-50 knots. At the height of the storm, seas were running 8-12 feet. While en route, Smith lost communications three times with his home base. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard in St. Petersburg dispatched a helicopter after receiving an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) alert. Through communications with Sea Tow they verified the EPIRB was from the Sea Tow member Smith was trying to locate, who was still estimated to be about six miles away.
Once the helicopter crew arrived at the area, intermittent communications were established between the helicopter crew and Capt. Smith. Both began to search for the boat. Smith had difficulties seeing anything due to rough weather and poor visibility, which made the search nerve-racking. Armed with the EPIRB location, the helicopter crew finally located four people in the water. The crew deployed a rescue swimmer to them and directed Smith to their position. With the assistance of the Coast Guard rescue swimmer, who remained in the water, Smith safely recovered all four people to the Sea Tow boat. Capt. Smith’s courage and perseverance to continue the mission at some risk to himself and his boat, as well as his professional abilities, were critical to the Coast Guard/Sea Tow coordinated efforts that resulted in four lives being saved that dark night.
Sea Tow Citations for Efforts Above and Beyond: _These awards are presented to members of the Sea Tow network whom, while on or off-duty in the past year, participated in an operational event/incident, including a rescue or community program that brings great credit to the Sea Tow franchise and network. The 2013 recipients included:
Sea Tow Daytona/Ponce Captain Robert Albina: During the late afternoon of March 23, 2013, Capt. Albina heard the sounds of whistling and people yelling coming from a sandbar near Lighthouse Park just inside Ponce De Leon Inlet. Just a few minutes before, Albina had passed several kayakers in the same area as he traveled to his slip at Lighthouse Marina. As he got underway to assist, a Good Samaritan on the dock jumped aboard. Within a few minutes, Albina arrived on scene next to two kayakers, who were struggling in the strong current to keep a man in the water afloat and conscious. According to the kayakers, their friend had been swimming alone, but suddenly seemed to have a seizure and yelled for help. They paddled out to assist him.
Maintaining his composure, Captain Albina radioed the Coast Guard at Ponce Inlet and requested shore-side rescue assistance to meet him at the Coast Guard station. With the help of the Good Samaritan and the two kayakers, he pulled the unconscious and no longer breathing man onto the Sea Tow boat, and quickly headed to the Coast Guard Station. Immediately, a Coast Guardsman began CPR on the victim until rescue services arrived. Even though the entire case was started and completed in only about 15 minutes, sadly, the victim passed away. Still, Captain Albina’s determination and willingness to help others serves as yet another example of the dedication and professionalism found in the Sea Tow network.
Sea Tow Palm Beach Captain John Estey: During the early afternoon of June 21, 2013, a call came from the Palm Beach Boat Club reporting that a 44-foot cabin cruiser was ocean-side off the Breakers Hotel taking on water. Capt. Estey immediately responded to the call, along with another marine assistance company. Upon arrival, Estey verified that the vessel with 19 people aboard was taking on water. Most of the passengers were children attending a birthday party, and none were wearing life jackets. Most of them did not understand the severity of their situation.
Remaining calm and collected, and professionally coordinating efforts with the captain on the other marine assistance boat, Estey managed the evacuation of all 19 persons on board without injury and safely returned them ashore, avoiding a potential tragedy. This case is one of many that spotlights the high caliber of professionalism of the Captains in the Sea Tow network and the marine assistance industry as a whole.
Sea Tow Daytona/Ponce Captain Daniel Klindt: Early on the afternoon of June 27, 2013, Capt. Klindt was on patrol in Ponce De Leon Inlet near Daytona Beach, Fla., when he overheard a Mayday call from the 50-foot sailing vessel Arabella. It had one person aboard in need of medical attention after nearly drowning a half-mile offshore. Klindt immediately responded, knowing that it would take too long for Arabella to return to port via the inlet from its current position.
While in route, Klindt notified the Coast Guard that he was underway, and arranged for ambulance pickup at Coast Guard Station in Ponce De Leon Inlet. Within minutes he moved alongside and boarded Arabella. With the help of two Good Samaritans, they placed the victim on the Sea Tow boat and headed to the Coast Guard station as the two assistants performed CPR on the victim. Within minutes they arrived at the station and the victim was evacuated to the ambulance and driven to the hospital. Due to expert cooperation, knowledge and willingness to help, the whole episode took no more than a half hour from start to finish. Sadly, the victim passed away.
Sea Tow Delmarva Dive Team: Late in the afternoon of June 30, 2013, a small plane with two Maryland State Police (MSP) officers on board crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, a quarter mile off the Ocean City, Md. coastline, killing both officers. That evening MSP requested recovery dive standby assistance from Sea Tow Delmarva for the following day to retrieve the bodies.
On the morning of July 1, Sea Tow arrived at the recovery zone as requested. MSP dive teams were actively working to recover the two officers from the wreckage. Coast Guard Ocean City was also on-scene providing weather updates to the team. The weather was forecast to deteriorate later in the day.
By late morning, MSP divers were unable to recover the officers and asked Sea Tow to salvage the plane with the officers still inside. The Sea Tow dive team met and reassessed the situation. Given the risks of retrieving the plane with impending bad weather, the decision was made to send a Sea Tow diver to attempt the recovery. The Sea Tow diver entered the water and resurfaced with the first officer just over 30 minutes later amid strong currents and zero visibility. The officer was transferred to the Coast Guard vessel. Meanwhile, the winds shifted and sea conditions began to worsen. With an hour’s rest, the diver went back into the water. Twenty minutes later, he resurfaced requesting a tool. Fifteen minutes later he was advised he had five minutes left because sea conditions were pushing the limits of operational risk and safety. Five minutes later, the diver resurfaced with the second officer, who was also transferred to the Coast Guard. Due to the team’s dedication to duty and service, and willingness to go above and beyond, two families were able to put closure to this tragic incident.
Sea Tow Key Biscayne Captain Ian Marten: On the evening of August 25, 2013, Capt. Marten heard a distress call from a person urgently requesting help and repeating 9-1-1. The Coast Guard station in Miami immediately determined that an unconscious man had been pulled from the water at Nixon Beach near Key Biscayne, Fla. Marten, in his 24-foot Sea Tow rigid-hull inflatable headed out and soon arrived in the vicinity. Nixon Beach, which is a sandbar, was crowded with boats and people, creating especially challenging conditions for a rescue. Once on scene, a boater fired off two flares that marked the victim’s location. Marten nosed the bow of the inflatable onto the sand bar, and took control of the situation. He directed four people to place the unconscious man on the bow of his vessel.
Meanwhile, a Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene. Marten and the helicopter crew made plans for Marten to get underway with the victim. Once clear of the crowded beach, the helicopter would deploy its rescue swimmer onto the Sea Tow boat. Marten then asked people on the bar to push the boat’s bow back off into deeper water. At that point he realized a young woman was already on board tending to the victim, and a man also jumped onboard as the boat was pushed back. Captain Marten carefully maneuvered his boat to where he could maintain a steady course and speed. As planned, the helicopter hovered over the moving boat and dropped the rescue swimmer with medical bag to the bow. The swimmer assessed the victim’s condition, then called for the rescue basket. The helicopter began to deploy the basket; a particularly tricky feat as the rotor wash pushing the boat out of position. Using exceptional small boat handling skills, Marten kept his boat on course. With the basket finally secured on deck, the swimmer and two Good Samaritans strapped the victim into the basket. The victim was hoisted into the helicopter. This case once again highlights the highly professional relationship that exists between the Sea Tow network and the U.S. Coast Guard.