Rough Waters, Smooth Rescue

Coast Guard 1By: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

The waters of Bogue Inlet were choppy last Saturday morning. With 15-knot winds whipping the waves into frothy disarray, the inlet posed a challenge for boaters attempting to safely navigate the moody waters.

For Don Midgett and Timothy Rollins, two boaters who were trying to wrestle their way through the inlet that morning, the conditions proved too rough for their 22-foot Sea Hawk.

The boat’s outboard failed, leaving the two men helpless as the current pushed their vessel onto the sandbar.

At 9:36 a.m., their boat began to take on water.

At 9:43 a.m., the boat capsized. Midgett and Rollins had only enough time to grab their life jackets before tumbling into the churning water.

After receiving a call from a bystander, four crew members from U.S. Coast Guard Station Emerald Isle arrived on scene in their 24-foot rescue boat at 9:50 a.m., arms outstretched.

“Getting there quickly was vital,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler McGuinness, a boatswain’s mate at at the Station. “It’s hard because things change constantly.”

For as the Coast Guard crew made their way to the scene, they thought they were just dealing with a vessel taking on water.

“As soon as we heard the boat had capsized, things got more serious,” said McGuinness, the coxswain of the crew. “It fired everyone up. Adrenaline kicked in.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Tomcany, a boatswain’s mate, and Fireman Apprentice Michael Skvasik, another crew member, were able to pull both men from the water and onto the Special Purpose Craft-Shallow Water boat in a matter of minutes.

Coast Guardsmen at Station Emerald Isle routinely practice recovering people from the water, which McGuinness said helped his team execute the rescue so well.

“The crew performed perfectly,” he said. “They were on point.”

“When it’s the real deal, it’s a little more nerve-wracking,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Welvaert, a boatswain’s mate and another member of the rescue crew. “All you want is to get them aboard safely.”

Although shaken and in shock, Midgett and Rollins were otherwise unharmed.

“They were both just really happy to be out of the water,” said Skvasik.

The rescue crew brought the two men to the station, where an emergency medical services team evaluated both and deemed them in good health.

“If they hadn’t managed to grab their life jackets, and if we hadn’t been able to respond so quickly, it might not have gone so well,” McGuinness said. “But we got the outcome we wanted. The whole crew was stoked.”

Skvasik, who has been in the Coast Guard for less than a year, said this was his first search and rescue case.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be,” he said. “Everyone was focused.”

Welvaert, who has been part of many search and rescue cases while stationed at Emerald Isle, said she also found Saturday’s rescue fulfilling.

“That’s what everyone signs up for,” she said. “Being able to make a difference means everything.”