Jetty boat rescue comes right on time

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A local tow boat captain said that a recent rescue of a disabled boat in the Masonboro Inlet saved the family from serious injury.

Sea Tow of Wrightsville Beach Capt. Ryan Saporito said the June 18 rescue of the father and his three sons came just as the family out on a day of fishing were about to be thrown from the fishing boat and onto the rocks of the jetty.

A good samaritan called in the disabled boat right before it hit the rocks of the jetty, Saporito said, as the 22-foot center console boat was adrift in the rough waters. Saproito said that the rescue tow arrived to rough conditions, with three-to-four foot waves, 15 knot winds and a rising tide.

“All of those forces were pushing the boat in one direction,” Ryan said.

The boat was already on the rocks when Saporito’s boat arrived.

“It was stable until a set of five foot waves washed it further up the rocks, filled it with water and put it on a 70 degree angle.”

That set of waves threw out the boat’s captain, the father who had his three sons with him on the trip.

“We knew we had to act fast at that point,” Saporito said. ‘It wasn’t safe to remove the boat, we had to get the passengers off first.”

Saporito said had the tow boat not arrived when it did, the boaters could have suffered serious injury.

“They weren’t far from falling out,” Saporito said. “With the conditions that were there, had we not been on-scene, you’re looking at four people, getting hit with five foot waves over and over while stuck on the rocks. Those waves would have slammed them back into the rocks with 20 feet of force. We’re lucky to have the outcome we did.”

The boat was equipped with a GPS-enabled trolling motor that was supposed to hold the boat in one position. However, the system failed and the captain wasn’t able to start the boat’s engine before it hit the rocks, Saporito said.

Saporito said the incident showed the need for boaters to be prepared, especially when in rough current like the Masonboro Inlet.

“That incident alone demonstrates the need for people boating in the area to have a contingency plan,” he said.

Diver dies off Masonboro

In an unrelated incident, a diver died on Thursday, June 22 after being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard from a boat more than 30 miles off the coast of Masonboro Island.

The Coast Guard said that the diver had been underwater for more than 40 minutes when the boat captain called. The diver was retrieved and brought to the surface before the Coast Guard arrived. The diver was airlifted to Dosher Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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