surf Angler Water Rescue At Cape Henlopen Last Weekend

A man was rescued before he drowned by beach goers last weekend.

June 2022 … Day one of ‘school’s out for the summer’ and Christina, Sandy (the beach dog), and I head up to Herring Point to fish with the Bluefish Slayer, Suzanne Martin. We spend the day catching up, and telling stories. Next to the rocks (navy jetty) we see a little commotion, and as usual, always able to spot when someone needs help. Christina’s innate social worker 6th sense says, “something isn’t right over there.” As I scan past the breakers I see a head up, then down, up, then down. We know what is happening and already several men are in the water, literally, about to save a life. Suzanne and I stepped a little closer to see as there was some distance, and I remarked, “Do we need to ready the dog leashes from Sandy and Piper?”

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My first Keeper tautog from the rail … Laura Foerster

This is harkening back to a few summers ago when another rescue was at the hands of the resourceful DSF crew at the Point. By this time good Samaritans were ushering him out of the water, a body board was brought out as a flotation device. A crew on the beach had readied a tow strap to pull him and others in.
The men pull the survivor onto the beach. I said, “How does he look?” Christina said, “He’s sitting up but not really moving.” I’m not one to crowd a place when clearly there are people helping, but my gut told me to go.

Someone went looking for a nurse and I announced that I am CPR trained. I could visibly see and hear a lady giving very clear and detailed instructions to 911. I along with another person called for him to be pulled up further on the sand, and we needed to get him in a rescue position. Everyone quickly helped. There were some men standing and I said that I needed to get a pulse on him.

As I looked around, I could see a very concerned young lady not speaking. Her eyes filled with worry. I called out to her and asked, “What is his language?”  I was finding a pulse and asked out Spanish? French? She replied Swahili. I only had a few students who spoke this and didn’t know anything of help or comfort in this man’s language. His pulse was high but it dropped to an acceptable range. The survivor was conscious, out of it, but also able to spit up some salt water soon after.  EMS arrived and I returned back to beach bum status. Cheers to the good Samaritan who called 911 right away and to the very fast arriving EMS!

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Christina Puglisi picking through short tautog for that keeper

The heroes in this story are beach goers who quickly snapped into action, and didn’t delay. If there is one thing over my forty-four plus years around the ocean, bays, and boating, one has to act fast. These beach heroes safely got this gentleman to shore. From what I saw from land, just before they got to him, he didn’t have much longer as he was up and down, with arms below the water. Never good if you know what drowning actually looks like. Cheers to the crew on the beach, my hat is off you good people. It always restores my faith in humanity. Be aware of the silent signals of drowning, potential cardiac arrest, as well as second drowning or a dry drowning after distress in the water.

_________ Laura and Christina always keep an eye out and are aware of any surrounding issues for themselves and others. ________

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Last summer, 2021, Christina and I were on our skiff, The Money Drift, out in the Indian River Bay. It was around eight am and the water was moving fast as usual, just west of Massey’s thoroughfare. We noticed another skiff type boat with about five middle aged fellas on it, not drinking, but clearly enjoying the weather and getting some friend time in as they fished. As I am tying up a flounder rig, Christina says, “Check out that guy who jumped ship to get a nasty old life vest!”  I looked over and we both assumed, key word, that his buddies would motor back and collect him. A few moments later, Christina makes the call that this guy needs help. I did a quick look around and his buddies were anchored up hundred yards away, and not in a way where the current would push him.

Money Drift

The life jacket was not on this person, but he was hanging onto it. We could see him struggle. Christina readied our life vests, and had in hand our throwable float. We motored over to him, cut off the engine, Christina deployed the ladder and we were set to drift to him on the last final feet. This gentleman was clearly out of breath, in distress, and struggled to make it to the ladder. Upon boarding he informed us right away that, “I’m from Pittsburgh!” We both laughed, asked if he was ok, or felt any chest pain, and lastly we got Pittsburgh’s name. A nice fellow who was clearly thankful. Next we delivered our Pittsburgh gentleman to his friend’s boat, still anchored, still laughing. To make it better, they had their phones out recording as we met port to port to drop off our human cargo. As our Pittsburgh gentleman stepped over from deck to deck, video rolling, I said,” This is the most creative way to pick up two chicks fishing!” They smiled and I am sure their day carried on. 

Masseys Ditch in the early morning

These fellows were lucky. There were, like many accidents in general, a series of poor decisions. Once things get compounded, sometimes there is no going back or precious minutes are lost when a life could be on the line. First: If a hat, a crusty old life vest, or anything else non human goes overboard stop and think. ALL water has current and changing tides. Use a hook, or get close enough to grab it yourself. I have lost many hats fishing and have circled back. Getting in moving current, especially in an area that would soon become ‘high boat traffic’ in about an hour is not safe. 
Second: Have a plan ready should someone fall overboard. The Coast Guard requires these items for a reason, e.g. throwable flotation. There are a few techniques for picking up a man overboard and marking.

One of the greatest dangers other than drowning is cardiac arrest due to the panic and stress being unexpectedly in the water can create. Make sure you know basic CPR and what to look for if needed as well as how to identify someone struggling, or a possible drowning.

Always be prepared on the water.

Laura Foerster


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