Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A good day for the US Coast Guard – and for some fishermen

My son has some things in common with Christopher Marino. At one point in his life he had a moderately compulsive interest in the Coast Guard. I read him several Coast Guard books, including one we are very fond of (Martha J LaGuardia-Kotite).

I was left with considerable sympathy for the US Coast Guard. I think this kind of story gets the crews out of bed – even in the middle of the night.

This story will be often told …

Disney motto saved dad, son in sea - People: Tales of survival -

Walter, Christopher and Angela were enjoying a family day at the beach at the Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Sept. 6. Late in the afternoon, Christopher was swimming near his father when he got caught in a current, and his dad paddled rapidly to retrieve him.

“We were both just sucked out,” Marino told Lauer. “The forces just took us out so quickly, it totally took me by surprise.”

… On the beach, Angela could no longer see her father and brother and quickly called 911. The Coast Guard and the Volusia County Beach Patrol launched a search-and-rescue effort, but were unable to locate the pair and called off the search when darkness set in.

Meanwhile, Walter and Christopher treaded water while looking at each other face to face. Christopher, who is largely nonverbal, “watches a lot of Disney movies,” explained his father, and Walter kept calling out Christopher’s favorite Disney lines, including the “Infinity” phrase.

But as the hours ticked off in the dark night, Walter could no longer hear his son. He tried to reconcile himself to the worst.

“I knew in my mind he was gone,” Marino told Lauer. “The only thing that got me through was I could not lose my daughter. I could not let my daughter lose her brother and her father on the same day.”

Around 7:30 a.m. the next morning, fishermen spotted a glint in the water from Walter’s necklace and rescued him. With the fate of Christopher still unknown at the time, Walter had little hope of finding his son alive.

“The Coast Guard asked me if I wanted to be evacuated to a helicopter to go to the hospital, or stay on the boat and continue the search,” he said. “I stayed on the search. They asked me if I wanted to be above or below — I chose to be below, because I knew in my mind that Christopher was gone and I didn’t want to see my son floating facedown.”

After nearly two hours, the Coast Guard asked Marino to come on deck. “That was my Green Mile,” he told Lauer. “I thought they wanted me to come up and identify the body. Those three steps, I just needed help to get to the top.

I got up there and they pointed to the helicopter and said, ‘See that helicopter over there? That has your son, and he’s fine.’

“I never kissed so many Coast Guard men in my life!”

Christopher was picked up some 3 miles from where his father was found, and some 8 miles from shore…

That was one heck of a rescue. One man found by chance, and then, knowing the currents and where Walter was found, the Guard picked his son out of a vast ocean.

I think Walter should hang on to that lucky necklace.

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