Navy Ship Rescues Two at Sea - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/15/04

Navy Ship Rescues Two at Sea

The burning yacht. The burning yacht.
The rescue crew approaches the stranded men. The rescue crew approaches the stranded men.

Many people are coming into Savannah to take part in the Saint Patrick's Day festivities, including some sailors aboard the USS Mitscher. The Navy ship sailed from its port in Norfolk, Virginia, and pulled into Savannah today with some extra people on board. The crew actually rescued two men during the journey.

It happened by chance. Crew members and officers were listening to their bridge-to-bridge radio as they navigated the waters, but what they heard made them take immediate action. An ordinary day at sea quickly turned into a search and rescue mission.

The crew received a mayday call around 4:30pm on Sunday afternoon. The sailors quickly realized the distress call was 15 miles from their position, and without hesitation, the men turned their destroyer around to rescue two men from their burning yacht.

The victims weren't hard to find. "You couldn't miss the smoke," said Commander Don Schmieley. "The fire and the smoke was huge."

Now knowing what they were dealing with, search and rescue swimmers jumped into their raft and made their way out to sea. The yacht was completely engulfed in flames, but floating beside the craft, two men were shaken, but alive. "They said they were extremely relieved to see us pull up," recalled FC2 Bryon Parman. "They said our boat looked pretty big next to the little raft they were sitting on out there."

Roy Mason and Mike Matarese were grateful to be rescued. The search and rescue teams brought the two men on board, treated them for smoke inhalation and minor abrasions. The two men and the crew members say they're just glad the Navy warship was at the right place at the right time. "Everybody was fired up once we got them back on deck," said GM2 Edward Grace. "Successful rescues are always good. Everybody felt real excited about that."

The two men were able to call their families back home in Maryland and left this morning by air. The Coast Guard also participated in the rescue, sending a helicopter for backup in case they were needed.

Reported by: Melanie Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com

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