The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) conservation police officers assisted in a search and rescue on the evening of Sunday, January 19, 2020 in Accomack County, VA. At around 5:45pm EST, Officer Brian Bratton received a call from the Accomack 911 center that provided him with a specific location identified from a cell phone ping. Sergeant Steve Garvis and Officer Anthony Pennino, who were nearby from a prior operation, responded to the Cedar View boat ramp and quickly launched their boat. Along with the DGIF Officers, Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Officer Trevor Wessels also launched his boat to assist.
Three gentlemen who had been out duck hunting earlier in the day were heading back to the ramp when their 14-foot jon-boat hit a wind-induced, strong wave that broke over the gunwale, causing the boat to become unstable and flip into the water. All three men, who were wearing their life jackets, were thrown into the freezing, rough water. Luckily, as the boat filled with the chilly water, one of the men was able to dial 911. The men were soon in the 39° water, facing an outside temperature of 36°. They tried to stay afloat while battling 4-foot waves and wind gusts of more than 42 mph.
Due to the treacherous weather conditions, DGIF and assisting boats battled rough and extremely shallow water, causing the boats to run aground many times. All officers involved worked together, shining their lights to cover the water where the overturned boat was. The boaters were found clinging to the capsized boat after being in the water for almost an hour. All three men were severely hypothermic with one displaying advanced stages of hypothermia. Once officers were able to get the soaking wet, cold men in the boat, they were quickly taken back to the ramp where local EMS units and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter were waiting to take them to the hospital.
Due to the quick responses of DGIF and assisting officers, all three men were rescued from the deadly waters and will make a full recovery.
Thank you to Sergeant Garvis, Officers Pennino and Bratton, and VMRC Officer Wessels for your assistance on the water and saving the life of three men who were just out for a day of duck hunting.
DGIF wants to remind you to always wear a life jacket. Remember, everyone wants to have a safe, enjoyable day on the water. Do your part by wearing your life jacket and taking a boating safety education course. Always be responsible, be safe, and have fun!
To learn more about boating laws in Virginia and about boating safety education courses, visit: www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating.