Lobersterman Follows the Sound of Distant Cries in the Water and a 3-Hour Rescue Mission Ensues

By: Georgia McKoy | Published: Feb 12, 2024

Off the coast of Maine, a lobsterman became an unexpected hero after hearing faint cries for help. This incident led to a complex rescue operation involving multiple agencies. 

The man in distress had been checking on storm damage to his skiff, a small flat-bottomed boat, when it capsized, leaving him stranded in the freezing waters between Tenants Harbor and Rackliff Island, as reported by St. George Fire and Rescue on Facebook.

The Initial Alarm

The urgency of the situation was triggered when the man failed to meet his wife at their agreed 4:15 p.m. meeting time, Fox News reports.

A close-up of a police car's roof-mounted light bar illuminated in the dark. The light bar is flashing with red and blue lights

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Concerned by his absence and inability to reach him, his wife contacted 911, sparking a widespread search. The responders faced a daunting task, as the man could have been anywhere in the vast and treacherous coastal area.

The Fight to Find the Missing Man

As darkness fell around 5pm, the situation grew increasingly dire. 

A search and rescue team member, wearing a blue uniform with "MA1TF" and an American flag on his helmet, is briefing a group of attentive soldiers wearing camouflaged uniforms and red helmets

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Fox News explains that the initial drizzle turned into a heavier shower, complicating the rescue efforts. St. George Fire and Rescue coordinated a challenging three-hour rescue operation, navigating on foot and by sea to reach the man, eventually securing his safety and transport to the hospital.

Community Response

The rescue was a testament to the strong sense of community and the courage of local lobstermen and first responders.

A dynamic image of an orange Coast Guard speedboat in motion on the water. The boat is captured at a high angle with water spraying around as it cuts through the surface at speed

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According to Fox News, over 25 individuals from St. George Fire and Rescue, Marine Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Knox County Sheriff’s Office collaborated in the search. St. George Fire and Rescue said, “Our local lobstermen saved his life.”

Trapped and Alone: A Survivor's Ordeal

Fox News reports that after his skiff capsized, the man managed to swim to a nearby island, but his safety was far from assured. He was trapped on rugged terrain in an area where access by boat was impossible. 

A white rowboat with green interior is partially submerged on a calm lake, against a wooded shoreline

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Despite the efforts of more than 25 first responders, the difficult conditions initially thwarted their attempts to locate him.

A Local Hero Steps Forward

The Pen Bay Pilot reports that among the community members who responded was Ryan Miller, a local lobsterman.

A solitary fisherman stands in a small red boat on a vast expanse of blue water. He is wearing a hat, orange overalls, and is actively engaged in a task

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Heeding the call for assistance, Miller took to the water, tuning into the ongoing search efforts. His actions were crucial in the rescue, demonstrating the role that local knowledge and immediate response play in saving lives.


A Harrowing Trek Across the Island

Due to the island’s narrow passages and rocky terrain, which made access by boat impossible, first responders had to physically carry the man across the island, The Pen Bay Pilot explains.

A team of rescue workers in red helmets and harnesses is conducting a high-angle rescue. They are securing an orange stretcher

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They employed a stokes basket, a type of stretcher, to transport him through the dense woods and tidal pools, as detailed in the Pen Bay Pilot.


A Team Effort: From Island to Ambulance

The operation to transport the man off the island was a carefully orchestrated effort. Teams of first responders took turns carrying the stretcher, navigating the difficult terrain in the darkness.

A black and white boat marked “MARINE PATROL” cruises on a river. The vessel is equipped with various antennas and a roof-mounted searchlight

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Pen Bay Pilot notes that their dedication was evident as they worked together to ensure the man’s safe passage to a waiting Marine Patrol boat, and eventually to the U.S. Coast Guard for the final leg to Tenants Harbor.


The Journey to Safety

Fox News reports that upon reaching the mainland, the man was immediately rushed to the hospital, accompanied by his wife. 

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The successful rescue operation was a moment of relief for everyone involved, especially given the treacherous conditions and the uncertainty that had loomed over the search efforts.


Reflections on the Rescue

In the aftermath of the rescue, St. George Fire and Rescue shared a message on Facebook, expressing hope for the man’s recovery and emphasizing the significance of the community’s collective effort. 

Inside the St. George Fire Department, fire-resistant suits and gear are hanging to dry above a collection of equipment. Visible items include gloves, boots, and helmets, essential for firefighting and rescue operations

Source: St.George Fire&Rescue/Facebook

“While tonight’s outcome feels like a victory, we do not know at this time what the future holds for our patient,” they said.


The Importance of Preparedness

The incident served as a crucial reminder of the importance of having a plan when venturing onto the water.

Overlooking a tranquil harbor, various boats are moored on calm waters under a cloudy sky. The foreground shows a floating dock with several small boats tied to it, including rowboats and a dinghy. In the background, larger vessels are anchored

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St. George Fire and Rescue advised in their Facebook post, “When you are going out on the water, establish check-in times. If those times are missed, CALL IT IN. You are not overreacting.”


A Community's Strength

The rescue operation highlights the strength and resilience of the local community, the bravery of first responders, and the critical role of individuals like Ryan Miller.

An emergency scene at night with a fire truck and ambulance displaying flashing red lights. The vehicles are parked next to a body of water

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It is a powerful testament to what can be achieved through collaboration and swift action in the face of adversity, per information from The Pen Bay Pilot.