Nation & World News

Man Hailed As A Hero After Epic Swim Saves Stranded Family

By Bill Chappell on July 12th, 2013

“It wasn’t an option. It just had to be done.”

That’s the simple explanation offered by John Franklin Riggs, discussing his extraordinary effort to get help for his family after their boat capsized in the Chesapeake Bay on Tuesday night. Riggs swam for five hours in darkness before finding help near Deal Island, Md.

Their fishing boat had been overwhelmed by a storm that hit the Bay that night. On the boat were Riggs’ father, 70, and sister, along with two children, ages 3 and 9. As Riggs swam, they clung to the boat, which drifted 5 miles in strong tides.

“The boat finally sank just before sundown and we were hanging there on the sides,” Riggs, 46, tells Reuters. “I waited a while and no other boats were out there. Finally, I decided to swim, and that’s what I did. I just swam and swam.”

After Riggs left to get help, the others sang songs to pass the time, Reuters says.

They were reportedly wearing life jackets, but that didn’t protect them from sea nettles as they floated, Riggs’ sister, Contessa, tells news site Delmarva Now.

Riggs says he used lights on shore to guide himself; he also used crab pot buoys in the bay to get a breather. Finally, at around 1 a.m., he arrived at the shore and went to the first house he saw. There, residents Carol Wood and Angela Byrd called the fire department for help.

Riggs’ family spent another two hours or so in the water, as a rescue helicopter searched for them.

“It is a long swim for anybody, in that kind of tide and that kind of wind,” Deal Island Fire Chief Donald Ford tells local TV station WBOC. “I don’t know if too many people survive Tangier Sound in a flood tide like that.”

Speaking with Reuters, Contessa Riggs says she was sure her brother would reach shore.

“When I finally saw him on the boat, I just said, ‘I told you you’re my hero,’ ” she tells the news agency.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

Less than a month after being airlifted from Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantly will be released from the hospital where he's been treated for Ebola.

At Least One American Ebola Patient Will Leave Atlanta Hospital, Group Says

The aid group Samaritan’s Purse says Dr. Kent Brantly will be discharged today. He and aid worker Nancy Writebol were flown back to the U.S. earlier this month after contracting the virus in Liberia.


Macy’s To Pay $650,000 In Settlement Over Alleged Racial Profiling

The agreement follows a similar deal earlier this month with Barneys. Customers of both department stores said they had been targeted as suspects of theft because of their race.


President Obama leaves after making a statement Wednesday about the killing of journalist James Foley in Syria. The president said the U.S. would continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder.

U.S. Forces Tried To Rescue Foley, Other Hostages In Syria

The mission earlier this summer, based on intelligence from released hostages, “was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location,” the Pentagon reported.


A memorial of items sit in the middle of the road at the site where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo. Any investigation into Brown's fatal shooting by a police officer is likely to take months.

Many Seek Justice In Ferguson, Mo., But Will Have To Wait Awhile

Demonstrators want an indictment of the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown earlier this month. But investigations — one of them a federal civil rights case — can take weeks, if not months.


Killer whales perform in Shamu Stadium at the SeaWorld Orlando theme park in Florida. SeaWorld says it will not appeal a citation that prohibits trainers from performing with the whales.

SeaWorld Won’t Appeal Ban On Trainers Performing With Orcas

The theme-park company received a citation in 2010 after an orca named Tilikum killed a trainer. Since then, SeaWorld has planned upgrades to its facilities and training. But it still faces criticism.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments