One of my most memorable life experiences occurred in 1997 when I was running my own scuba diving company on Maui. On a routine day off of Molokini crater, I saved someone's life.
Aboard the Boat Maui Diamond II, I had just finished a second scuba dive with my students. All of my students were back on board and out of the corner my eye I noticed some serious splashing going on. I could see two people in definite trouble, getting taken away by the current. My wetsuit was still on and I quickly spoke to the captain to let him know that I was going to go after them. The captain said he would go, but I responded, "No, I got it."
I wasn't trying to be a hero. I just knew it would be a smarter idea, if I jumped in the water versus the captain jumping in. If something were to happen to the captain, I would have had to handle the boat, with much less experience doing so, pulling the anchor, starting the boat, maneuvering around to try to pick them up, and doing so without chopping anyone up in the propellers. I knew he had my back.
Jumping in the water with my fins, mask, and snorkel on, I kept my eye on both of them, swimming my way over to them. At this point the couple had drifted away from each other and both of their masks and snorkels were missing.
The female was definitely in full panic mode, you could see the fear on her face. "I’m here to help you," I yelled out and told her to turn onto her back. This was something my dad had explained in his own rescue stories that I had heard throughout my life. Sure enough she tried to grab me. My lifeguard and scuba training kicked in as I reversed kicked to propel myself away. I told her again to turn on her back with my big command voice and to relax, that I was there to help her. She listened this time and turned onto her back.
Towing another person against the current and wind was slow, so it took some time to get back to the boat. Once I was able to get her back onboard I kept an eye on her companion. He was slowly making his way back and we threw him a line.
Once everything calmed down, we drank some fresh water and got a chance to catch our breath. I found out that they were newlyweds and really didn't have a lot of open ocean swimming experience. They had slowly drifted away from the snorkeling area and the current started to take them away. He told me it was a horrible feeling, not being to get to his wife to save her. As a sheriff in regular life, he felt he could handle almost anything, but had felt so helpless, especially with the thought that he might lose his wife before they had a chance to start their life together. He also told me his wife had stared into the face of death many times. I thought that was curious.
A few weeks later I got a nice letter sharing their gratitude for my swift action in saving his new wife. Also enclosed was a plaque.
Engraved on the plaque was the following:
Shelby County, #61
Best Rescue of an Undertaker at Molokini
June 10, 1997
We Love You