A three-legged rescue


A man and his dog sit atop their overturned boat prior to rescue by Coast Guard crewmembers. This still image is taken from a video that can be found on DVIDS.

A man and his dog sit atop their overturned boat prior to rescue by Coast Guard crewmembers. This still image is taken from a video that can be found on DVIDS.

On a windy, rainy Saturday afternoon Andrew Vuichard and his dog were called into service. Vuichard, a captain for Tow Boat U.S., was making his way to assist a disabled boat in the area. The boat had run out of fuel with four adults and three children stranded onboard. With the storm picking up, Vuichard called his friend from Tow Boat U.S. to request a bigger boat, but the call was cut off.

“In the midst of calling his buddy his vessel capsized,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Gerard Wynne, coxswain of the responding small boat. “His buddy tried to call him back on his phone and by radio and when he couldn’t reach him he called us.”

Wynne and his boatcrew were deployed to Vuichard’s last known position.

“When we left the station we were thinking the boat was either taking on water or had capsized,” said Wynne. “When we found him he was straddling the capsized hull and the waves were crashing over the stern of the vessel. It was pretty intense.”

Upon arriving on scene, Wynne noticed that Vuichard wasn’t alone. His arms were around his yellow Labrador. Both were obviously frightened and cold after their harrowing mishap.

“Initially, when the boat capsized the dog was trapped underneath the hull for about five minutes,” said Wynne. “When the dog resurfaced he was in bad shaped because he had swallowed a decent amount of salt water and fuel. On top of that, he only had three legs, so he couldn’t really fend for himself as far as staying above the water.”

With the weather working against them, the rescuers threw a life jacket to Vuichard. If anything went wrong at least the flotation device would do its job. But nothing else went wrong. Wynne’s crewmembers performed perfectly in the face of their increasingly complicated environment. One member had spotted the distressed vessel. Another made a spot-on throw with a heaving line to Vuichard, who, when he had made it to safety, made no secret of his appreciation for his rescuers.

“He was just extremely grateful that we were out there and that he was safe and his dog was safe,” said Wynne. “We gave them water and tried to calm them down. We got them blankets to warm them up, because he said if it had been any colder it might have been worse for them.”

For Vuichard and many people put in similar situations, a storm on the water is a panic-inducing event that maybe is fun to watch from a distance, but is not something anyone would ever wish to experience. It’s dangerous and this is why coxswains and crewmembers like Wynne and his crew train rigorously twice a week.

“We do training every Tuesday and Thursday for stuff like this,” said Wynne. “We try to go out in the worst conditions so that we’re prepared. We train out in the gulf a lot because the conditions are a little more intense out there with the seas and the winds.”

“We took it one step at a time, but for situations like that we are well trained and that evolution was smooth because of it. It was just like another day for us.”

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