Sometimes rescues aren’t as dramatic as they are interesting.
A couple of days before Christmas, we received a direct call from a local resident who was worried about his son right as the sun was setting. He called our main number, which automatically rolls over to our “on call” phone when no one is in the office.
His son, who was in his late teens, had been out duck hunting on the north side of the San Luis Pass since early in the day. He waded out to an island that was about a quarter mile from shore, but the tide had filled in and the gut he’d walked across was now overhead with a strong current running through it.
Sgt. Austin Kirwin and supervisor Josh Bailey headed out to The Pass. They were finally able to locate the vehicle the victim had driven in after it was all the way dark. They were able to communicate with him by phone, and he used a combination of a flashlight and firing his shotgun to help them find him.
After careful consideration, they decided to have Josh go for the guy and Austin to stay on shore in case they needed to call for more help. Josh donned his wetsuit and a headlight, grabbed a waterproof radio and headed out using a combination of wading and paddling a rescue board.
When Josh got to the island, he found the fisherman in good spirits. He was painted up in camouflage paint and wore a camouflage outfit with waders. He had a backpack loaded with supplies, a shotgun, and a string of duck decoys. He said he was thinking about just eating some food he had brought and sleeping until the next low tide but was afraid that the tide would cover the island when it filled all the way in.
He was worried that he couldn’t make it across the gut, where the tidal flow had carved out an area that was well overhead. As Josh paddled him in with all the little decoys following them like a mama duck, he was joking around — but was happy to be rescued by a “rescue swimmer.”
We’ve rescued many people, and even a cow, out there when the conditions and the sandbars change rapidly. Something that seems so simple, like wading out to a shallow sandbar, can turn deadly quickly.
I don’t know the guy that was rescued. But I know some things about him just by reading the rescue report. For such a young guy he’s very smart and/or experienced. He knew his waders could fill and drown him, as has happened to countless people fishing over the years. He was also really smart to be so prepared with a flashlight, food and a charged cellphone.
Taking some simple precautions, thinking out a course of action carefully when the situation changed and not being too proud to call for help when needed was the difference between a potential tragedy and an interesting story.