Training helped prepare Water Taxi crew for in-water rescue this week in Elliott Bay

An ordinary evening sailing from West Seattle turned into an extraordinary display of preparation and skill when our three-person crew rescued a man stranded in Elliott Bay on Thursday.

The rescue took place shortly before 6 p.m., after the MV Doc Maynard left Seacrest Dock and headed toward Pier 52 in Downtown Seattle. The crew spotted a man in the water away from his boat, blowing a whistle and clinging to what appeared to be a chair.

The crew members – who had all undergone rigorous safety and emergency training when they joined our team – sprang into action to pull the man out of the water quickly and safely. Capt. Jeff Bearden positioned the vessel close to the man in the water. As he did that, deckhands Bob McDougall (on the job for only three months) and Amanda Cook (an on-call deckhand in her second year with us) prepared to pull the man aboard the vessel.

(For a glimpse of how quickly they acted, as well as the moment we brought the man aboard, watch the video shot by rider and Instagram user Ryan Abernathy (@r_dabernathy))

McDougall – wearing an orange rescue suit as required by safety protocol to maintain his body temperature and be easily seen when in the water – dove in Elliott Bay with a harness and swam to man. Meanwhile, Cook quickly roped together a pulley system to pull him aboard.

Even though they worked quickly, the crew continually communicated with each other, as well as the person overboard. With McDougall guiding and supporting, Cook tugged the ropes to lift the man out of the water via the harness.

(Check out this video of the rescue shot by Twitter user Skip Tognetti (@togneter))

After the man boarded the vessel (and gave a thumbs up to relieved riders who watched the whole ordeal), the Doc Maynard continued sailing to Pier 52. Once it arrived, a medical crew examined the man and determined he was OK. We even gave him a ride back to West Seattle.

Video of the rescue from riders – many of whom were sailing with the Water Taxi to the Seahawks game – quickly spread through social media.

“It was super impressive to watch what a well-trained team can accomplish in a crisis when they all know their roles and work together!” Abernathy wrote in his Instagram post. “Always appreciated this team and the service they provide, but wow, what a huge level of respect, gratitude and admiration we have for you after witnessing that!”

For us here at the Water Taxi, knowing what to do in an emergency is vital – and it’s something for which we’ve been recognized and take great pride. Thanks to the rigorous training program developed by Operations and Maintenance Manager Ron Panzero, the Passenger Vessel Association recognized him with its Roger Murphy National Marine Safety Award in 2017. Panzero and Operations Lead Chad Wiesenfeld developed training to help assure all new members of our team are prepared.

“The Marine Division is committed to hiring the finest, most-skilled crew and setting them up for success through our rigorous training program,” Director Paul Brodeur said. “This rescue, performed flawlessly by our newer deckhands, speaks volumes to the dedication of our highly skilled crew and award-winning training program that we’ve created.”

Great work by everyone involved.

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