On a day when it seemed as if nothing was going right for Ryan Dotson, South Whitley, Indiana, the Fort Wayne Fire Department (FWFD) Water Rescue and Recovery Team probably looked like the Coast Guard coming to his rescue.
Dotson was in his fishing boat on Shriner Lake, Whitley County, Indiana, June 15, by mistake because he had never been on this lake and thought he was on the lake next to Shriner. He turned his boat into rough water and began taking water over the bow of his boat. His boat began sinking rapidly and propelled him into the water as it rolled underwater in seconds. As the water rapidly came into the boat, it knocked the breath out of Dotson. The lifejacket he had was not rated for his weight and he was not using it properly so that was of no help. A former swim team member in junior high school, he knew he was in trouble because he couldn’t breathe due to the sudden rush of water as he was pitched into the lake.
Eight members of the FWFD Water Rescue and Recovery Team were practicing diving and boat training on the lake when Firefighter Ben Singleton, on shore, saw what was happening with Dotson and signaled a crew on the water. Three firefighters in a boat, Clifton Dickerson, David Kruse and Brandon Moga, responded and assisted getting Dotson to shore by bringing their boat alongside, grabbing him and hanging onto him while they moved to the shore. While Singleton conducted a Rapid Medical Assessment of Dotson on shore, Dickerson, Kruse and Moga returned to the sinking boat and pulled it to shore along with the help of Firefighter Ryan Smith.
“I wouldn’t be here if they wouldn’t have been out there,” said Dotson, a father of three. “When I hit the water, I was having trouble breathing. They were very professional and really helpful. Not just in saving me from the water but helping me retrieve my boat and things from the boat. I want to thank them publicly for helping me go home alive to my kids,” he added.
Dotson and the dive team members reviewed proper boating safety procedures and the importance of using a properly fitted lifejacket. FWFD’s Water Rescue and Response Team trains so that when these situations occur, they are ready to respond.
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