Home for the Holidays

It could have happened to anyone.

A regular visitor from the Willamette Valley was in Newport last month, and he offered to check on a friend’s sailboat.  It was a beautiful day, warm; with no wind.

The visitor (who asked us not to share his name) tightened the lines securing the boat to the dock.  Suddenly, his boot slipped, and he fell into the cold Yaquina Bay water.  He’s 6’4,” a strong, active man, and as he stayed calm and looked around he saw no one nearby.  So he tucked a line under his armpit under water, and carefully worked his way to the front of the boat, hand over hand.  He got colder as he moved through the chilly water.  Finally, he made it to the bow.  Then his foot got tangled in a line.

Across the street, a Central Lincoln lineman, Dan Kinion, and a utility helper, Bryan Boeckman, were working at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.  It was time for lunch, and they decided to drive over to the South Beach Marina to eat.  They had barely parked when Dan heard what sounded like a call for help.  Bryan hadn’t heard it, and even though the sounds stopped, Dan was pretty sure he’d heard someone calling.  They ran down to the dock.

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Utility Helper Bryan Boeckman (left) at the South Beach Marina: “We were really worried he wasn’t going to make it.” (inset) Lineman Dan Kinion

The visitor, struggling in the water for nearly 45 minutes, had gotten a break: a nearby resident at the Marina heard a noise, then saw a hand coming out of the water.  She came running, joined by two others; it was her cries that Dan thought he’d heard.  While she called 9-1-1, the four men hauled the visitor up, and out of the water.  He was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, cotton clothes that soaked up water, making him even heavier.  He was hypothermic–shaking heavily from low body temperature.  Bryan and one of the other rescuers got him to their pickup, and covered him with raingear as they waited for an ambulance.  Dan finished tying up the sailboat.

It took three hours in the emergency department for the visitor’s body temperature to be brought back to normal.  The next day, one of his friends came to tell us how much she appreciated Dan and Bryan’s help in the rescue.  “I am thankful, so very thankful he is alive and with us.  He has grown children, and grandchildren, and all of us will have him with us for the holidays.  It means so much!”

A famous anthropologist wrote, ‘a few caring people can change the world.’  Last month, in just a few minutes, five caring people changed the world for the visitor, his friends, and his family.

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