‘We’re gonna move the earth to get to you’: VBFD recalls weekend rescue, promotes boater safety

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — On Saturday, a sudden shift in weather only took minutes to go from drop-dead gorgeous to potentially deadly — and it caught some boaters and fishermen off guard.

First responders say no one was hurt after the weather caused several people fishing from a platform under the Lesner Bridge to be stranded and a boat to overturn nearby.

10 On Your Side first reported the water rescues Saturday evening. Fire dispatchers said the first call for help came in around 6:14 p.m. about an overturned catamaran near Seaview Avenue and Ocean View Avenue.

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The sailor, 15, was able to get to shore safely, according to Virginia Beach Fire Capt. William “Shay” Dortch.

He sat down with WAVY News on Wednesday to go over the rescue efforts that took place Saturday night.

“Probably one of the more dynamic days we’ve had in a while ’cause we had gale force winds,” explained Dortch.

To be considered gale force winds, weather experts say gusts need to be strong and persistent with a minimum speed of 31 mph.

During Saturday’s weather, Meteorologist Steve Fundaro with the WAVY Weather Team said gusts reached about 40 miles per hour. Although the weather did move in quickly, Dortch said the reports called for that kind of storm to hit at that time all day long.

“Weather should be the primary thing when you’re doing these boat checks,” said Dortch. “Do you have enough fuel? Is my vessel in good running order? Do I have the right safety equipment? Alright… but what’s the weather?”

The three people fishing under the bridge would prove to require most of the rescue team’s efforts. Two of the fishermen swam to shore before first responders got there, but one decided to stay on the platform until the boat arrived.

Dortch said, in this scenario, the best thing to do after calling 911 is to stay put.

“Sit tight, relax. If you called us, we’re coming. That’s just what’s going to happen. We’re gonna move the earth to get to you, believe that,” he said.

Recalling the rescue efforts, Dortch says the team did everything but move the earth Saturday night to get to the lone fisherman. He said it would not have been possible without a “perfect team, with perfect training and perfect timing.”

“Very technical, very hard. Not for the first-day boat operator. That day’s operator has been working for many, many years,” he said.

Video sent in by a WAVY viewer shows the technically difficult rescue of that lone fisherman pulled off the platform by first responders.

The U.S. Coast Guard also responded with a 45-foot boat out of Little Creek and a Jayhawk helicopter from Elizabeth City.

For people looking for more information on water safety, click here.

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If there’s an emergency, call USCG Sector Virginia Hotline 757-483-8567 and have your coordinates ready. Captain Dortch says no matter which agency is responding to a water emergency, having those available will cut down on the time it takes them to get to you.

You can access the coordinates through your phone’s compass or map feature.

Stay with WAVY.com for more local safety updates.

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