News of the Tri-State River Rats – a Powersports Club from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio areas –and their daring rescue has already hit the social media circles, but The Watercraft Journal reached out to President of the River Rats, Stephen Kresko, for a first hand account. This is the inside story:
“We were enjoying the last day of vacation in the Destin, Florida area,” Kresko began. “[Me], Tyler Rebman of Cincinnati, Ohio; Chris Riesz of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Peter Hanna of Nashville, Tennessee all wanted one last time out in the Gulf of Mexico to jump some waves as the rest of the club was hanging out at Crab Island, a local area to anchor and relax.”
“The weather forecast on the 21st of October had issued a small craft weather advisory,” Kresko cautioned. “But we had already enjoyed the waves earlier in the day so we knew what we were getting into on the water. We headed out, but this time the swells were bigger than before. As we made our way out the East Pass of the mouth of Destin into the Gulf, we noticed the wind had picked up. We all went to our area to do some wave jumping. The waves now were 10-14 footers where we were jumping.”
Kresko, keeping an eye on everybody to make sure they weren’t in harm’s way, joined in the fun. “Tyler got his camera out and starting taking pictures and video. As we jumped all of us had smiles on our faces. We would circle around and make run after run. We rode until we were too tired to continue.”
Kresko motioned to head back in and rejoin the group at Crab Island. “As we started in the mouth of the East Pass of the Destin waterway, [I] noticed a boat capsized with six men on top of the hull, none of them had lifejackets on. All [of the] men looked scared and nervous. There were two other boats trying to assist, one boat was the “Barracuda”, captained by Brandy Miles-Kitchen; the other just warning other boaters to keep clear. But neither vessel could get close enough to help.”
That’s when Kresko looked at Riesz and said, “Let’s give them a hand.”
Rebman and Hanna followed. They first tried to get life vests from the Barracuda to the men on the overturned boat. Then Kresko was the first to position his personal watercraft with the backend towards the capsized boat so one of the men could get on his craft. As the man tried climbing aboard the watercraft he leaned too far to the right and both men fell off into the rough sea. Kresko hurried back on his craft and they tried again with success.
He brought him to the boat and positioned alongside of it and people on the boat grabbed him and brought him on board the vessel. The man said, “Please get my brothers.” As this was happening Rebman, Riesz and Hanna started positioning their craft in the same manner and plucking each man one by one. Peter Hanna had brought one of his men to the shore for safety. Kresko and Rebman each rescued two men and Riesz and Hanna a man each. The rescue worked like clockwork.
“The River Rats are experienced PWC riders and it showed during the rescue in rough waters, each operator was calm and collected. All men were rescued and accounted for, as they were completing the operation, the Coast Guard arrived to assist the rescue boat to shore and take them to the Coast Guard facility. As the capsized boat went under the River Rats left the area to rejoin their group at Crab Island and share their story,” Kresko concluded.
All images courtesy of Tyler Rebman