The U.S. Coast Guard undertook the daring rescue of a suspected boat thief off the coast of Oregon earlier this month.
It began around 10 a.m. on Feb. 3, when Coast Guardsmen at Station Cape Disappointment received a mayday call from a man whose 35-foot Sandpiper boat had conked out roughly six miles west of where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.
Video of the harrowing mission released by the service shows that the sea was raging with 20-foot waves and “extremely high windspeeds,” according to a Coast Guard release.
In defiance of a moody Mother Gaia, the Coast Guard crew members boarded a 47-foot lifeboat and MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to arrive on scene about 40 minutes later.
The mariner reported that his boat was taking on water, and Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class John “Branch” Walton, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer in training, was lowered from the helicopter and raced to the scene. As he approached, however, a massive wave tossed the civilian boat like it was a toy, and the mariner was ejected.
Nonetheless, Walton manage to grab him, and both were hoisted to safety.
The mariner suffered minor injuries, according to the service.
Local police later told the Coasties that the man they had rescued was suspected of having stolen the boat from which he was rescued.
This save was Walton’s first as a rescue swimmer, according to the Coast Guard.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.