Local Sailor Dives into Water to Save Unconscious Fellow Male Sailor
Northport, NY - He was not destined to die that day...
On July 30, 2015, I was engaged in a local yacht club 's sailing activity. At approximately 6:40 P.M., I was on Capt. Ken’s sailboat. Steve D and three other non-experienced adult sailors were aboard. The wind was blowing about 40-MPH. The boat was still on its mooring, the mainsail was up, luffing violently, the boom swinging back and forth.
Steve went forward to release the mooring lines. As the boat was sailing back and forth on its mooring, he had tremendous difficulty releasing the lines. He was not wearing a life jacket (PFD). Ken engaged the engine to push the boat forward to ease tension on the lines. Steve finally released the lines from the mooring. While Steve was returning to the cockpit, the wind caused the boat to take a violent turn down wind. As this occurred, the heavy steel boom swung across the boat, striking Steve about the head and throwing him into water.
As the boat was moving away from Steve, I saw he was face down and appeared to be unconscious. As I was wearing an inflatable PFD, I instinctively dove into the water. As I hit the water I heard a loud blast from my PFD, and felt it fully inflate. I swam against a strong current, 50-yards to Steve, with an inflated PFD, a difficult task. By the time I reached him, he was still face down in water.
I immediately turned him over and gave him two quick breaths by hoisting him on my chest. I began squeezing his chest to have him expel a large amount of sea water. By this time Ken's boat had returned and I towed Steve’s body to the rear ladder. As I swam with him I stopped and gave him CPR the best I could. When reaching the ladder, I was physically exhausted and even with help of the crew on the sailboat, I could not get him into the boat.
As luck and fate would have it, a small Coast Guard boat that was leaving Northport Harbor heard the call for help. As the boat got closer, I swam with Steve in tow to the boat. I screamed at the crew to hoist him aboard. Steve was a large man, but with the crew's assistance, I was able to push Steve’s body onto the boat. I told them I was OK and that they should expedite him to the nearest dock and transport to a hospital. I swam back to the sailboat and managed to get aboard. I was later transported by the Club launch to the NYC dock, where I collapsed on the dock from sheer exhaustion. I received a contusion to my right ankle.
I later learned that a police helicopter was fortuitously in the immediate area of Northport. Steve was taken by ambulance to that helicopter and airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital in critical condition. There he was treated for fractures of the skull, face, jaw, and salt water inspiration into his lungs. He was subsequently transferred to St. Charles Hospital rehab center in Port Jefferson on July 7, 2015. On July 15, 2015, he was released to his home and recovering. Steve has some residual brain and physical issues, but is alive and continues to recover.
For my actions that day, I received the American Heart Association/Accampora Life Saving award. Later I was to receive the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, Lifesaving award. In 2018, I received the highest award, the Life Saving award from the United States Power Squadrons.
Editor's Note: Anthony Pozun is a CPR/First Aid Instructor in Northport, NY; a NYS Registered professional nurse (R.N.); and retired Nassau County Police Det./Sgt., with 35 years of service.