Overturned boat could have been disaster

DEBORAH WHEELER 267-4555 | @WaltonSunDeb dwheeler@waltonsun.com
The scene on shore as the first man is brought in.

The 911 call came in around 3:18 p.m. Saturday.

A 14-foot-long aluminum johnboat had overturned about a mile out from shore with five people onboard.

The caller believed he was somewhere out from Ed Walline Park.

The high temperature Saturday was 62 degrees, but water temperature was around 58, and seas were at 2-3 feet that day.

The caller advised that the boat was still floating and all five people were on top of the boat, but only three had life vests. All other gear was lost when the boat overturned. Two of the five people were a 10-year-old boy, and a 13-year-old boy.

The caller advised he could see land in the distance.

South Walton Fire District and Rescue, Walton County Sheriff's Department, and Coast Guard Destin responded.

Fortunately, SWFD Beach Safety personnel were at Ed Walline Park doing training when the call came in.

"We couldn't see them at first, but Safeties Luke Turner and Josh Ellis took jet skis out and found them, pulled the two kids from the water first and brought them in, then went back for the men," said Beach Safety Director David Vaughan.

Santa Rosa Beach resident David Ruffel had taken his dogs to the beach Saturday afternoon and saw deputies on the beach, a low-flying plane overhead, and the rescue. He was able to snap pictures of the event and shared them with The Sun.

The children were taken to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast and treated for mild hypothermia.

"It turned out to be a good outcome," said Vaughan.