They were on their way into port when the crew of a Long Island ferry turned into heroes.
That crew, along with members of the United States Coast Guard were honored in New London Monday night for saving the life of a young girl two weeks ago.
The incident occurred at the beginning of May when a 12-year-old girl took her dog on a canoe ride into Long Island Sound, but soon the water conditions became too much and she needed help fast.
Keith Mutch of Torrington happened to be in the right place at the right time on May 4. He was at the mouth of New London Harbor when he noticed the girl with her dog in a silver canoe, and something didn’t seem right.
“That day the water was rough, the wind was blowing and I noticed the way she was paddling she did not have control of the canoe,” Mutch said.
He had to act. He tried to place a phone call to the Coast Guard but had no cell reception. So he went to his other tool — a ham radio — and called for help.
“She ended up drifting out further into the water toward Ledge Lighthouse, and we lost contact with her on binoculars, and we’d come to find out that she’d flipped the canoe over.”
A cross-Sound ferry — the John H. — happened to be passing by on its way to New London Harbor. The coast guard contacted the ferry crew to be on the lookout for the girl.
“As we approached, the canoe capsized and we got our man overboard gear ready,” said ferry Captain Brent Reed. “We approached her, and the crew members threw her a life ring.”
A ferry passenger captured video of the rescue as Coast Guard members reeled the girl in to safety.
“She was very fatigued,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Steven Spilios. “She looked like she was going to fall under, so as we got closer we noticed that she was screaming she couldn’t get up and she needed help.”
Monday night at New London City Hall those acts of heroism were recognized , and everyone got to meet one another for the first time since the rescue.
The crews from the John H. and the Coast Guard received commendations for their quick thinking and bravery. If it hadn’t been for these people, this story would have had a very different ending.
“It’s a great feeling,” Petty Officer Spilios said. “It warms my heart up, makes me want to do my job even more now. I love my job.”
The unidentified girl and her family were not at Monday’s ceremony.
In case you were wondering, the dog swam almost a mile back to shore, where the ham radio operator found him and reunited him with the family.