Crewmembers and passengers aboard the charter vessel New Seaforth were underway for a fishing excursion off the coast of San Diego when the words “man overboard” suddenly boomed across the deck of the vessel.
It was Brian Castleton, crewmember aboard the fishing vessel, who shouted the words known to any man or woman who sails the seas. Castleton had spotted a man adrift in the water, frantically waving his arms.
At the helm of the New Seaforth, Castleton maneuvered the vessel to bring the only survivor in sight aboard. The survivor was recovered and indicated to the crew that his father and brother were still in the water.
Raymond Hudson, captain of the New Seaforth, immediately began to search the surrounding area with his binoculars and identified a single hand reaching upward for help nearly a quarter of a mile away.
Castleton proceeded at best speed and as he made the approach to the two men in the water, the fishing boat’s crew quickly realized one of the survivors was struggling to hold the lifeless body of the other above the water.
Immediately recognizing the severity of the situation and with no regard for his own safety, Derek Southern, crewmember aboard the New Seaforth, jumped into the 62-degree water. He held one survivor’s head above water while concurrently securing a life ring around the other to assist in bringing both survivors aboard the fishing vessel.
Southern made it back to the fishing boat with both survivors but one was not breathing and had no pulse. Medically trained passengers aboard the fishing boat began to render CPR.
As the passengers came together to render assistance, Hudson immediately turned his vessel toward shore, fighting uncharacteristically high seas while also coordinating follow-on medical assistance via the radio.
Upon arrival to the San Diego Lifeguard dock, the crew was met by University of California San Diego Medical Center professionals who took over the life-saving treatment.
All three men were hypothermic when they were rescued, and one required 45 minutes of CPR before he regained consciousness. In such dire circumstances, the crew of the New Seaworth kept them safe; the crew of the New Seaworth kept the survivors alive.
Mike Lopo, one of the survivors, said his survival, and that of both of his sons, was due to the crew’s familiarity with man overboard drills and retrieval procedures.
“The lack of hesitation on all of their parts – but especially Derek – was really a great thing,” said Lopo.
The New Seaworth honored their role as mariners that day. They transitioned seamlessly from charter fishing vessel to the role of rescuer.
“Without the decisive actions of the men and women aboard the New Seaforth, this story would have had a very tragic ending,” said Capt. Sean Mahoney, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “This is a perfect example of mariners looking out for each other, and we applaud the lifesaving actions they took to rescue these men.”
For their efforts, Southern received a Certificate of Valor while Hudson and Castleton received Meritorious Public Service Awards. Five passengers who assisted in providing first aid and CPR to the survivors also received the Meritorious Public Service Award.
“God knew what he was doing when he put them on the water that day,” said Lopo.