If it weren’t for the swift actions of two Charleston City Marina employees, two men without life vests whose dinghy capsized in May might have died, according to the Coast Guard.
“If they didn’t do what they did, those guys wouldn’t be around to see tomorrow,” said Sr. Chief Justin Longval, officer-in-charge of Coast Guard Station Charleston. “They saved their lives.”
Office manager Stephanie Collins and dock hand Mason Cotter were recognized at a small ceremony Thursday afternoon just across the dock from where they pulled the two overboard boaters, ages 58 and 68, out of the water to safety. Each one was presented a certificate of appreciation from the Coast Guard for their outstanding service, and Longval gave them each a challenge coin, typically issued to Coast Guard members who perform an exemplary action.
Collins and Cotter, both 22, were modest about the recognition but said they felt honored to receive it. Collins has worked at the marina for two and a half years and Cotter for a few months.
On May 28, Collins received a call over the radio about the boaters and made a split second decision to treat it as an emergency situation and report immediately to the Coast Guard. She then grabbed Cotter and they ran about 400 feet down the marina’s mega dock, grabbing life savers along the way. The two men had been swept about 1,000 feet out into the channel in front of the marina.
They got to the water’s edge, threw out the life savers and hauled the men up nearly five feet and out of the water.
“It took all our strength,” Collins said.
By the time the Coast Guard arrived, the two men were sitting safely on the dock. Cotter said he was just glad he could help. Collins credited the marina’s monthly safety training with knowing what to do.
“We’ve been trained for any kind of scenario,” she said. “There’s a lot that can happen in the maritime field.”
Neither of the men rescued were injured and their two-person dinghy was towed back in by the Coast Guard. Sector Commander Gary Tomasulo said Collins and Cotter were critical to their rescue.
“If it were not for their actions, who knows what would have happened,” he added.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.