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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2006

Father, son recount ordeal in frigid water

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Trent Cousino hugs his son, Javan, 10, in a room at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Hospital as he talks about their tale of survival in Maumee Bay. Trent Cousino hugs his son, Javan, 10, in a room at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Hospital as he talks about their tale of survival in Maumee Bay.
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It was a moment Trent Cousino will never forget in a night filled with unforgettable moments.

The spotlight of the Canadian freighter Federal Sakura swept across Maumee Bay and zeroed in on Mr. Cousino and his 10-year-old son, Javan, as they struggled to survive in the 47-degree water.

"It was like a light from heaven," Mr. Cousino recalled yesterday.

Mr. Cousino and Javan, both of Napoleon, had been in the water for about 30 minutes after their boat hit an unidentified object and sank.

The Cousinos, who were both wearing life jackets, were bobbing in the bay's shipping channel near Grassy Island when the ship's light shone on them. Soon, they were safely aboard a Coast Guard vessel.

By that time, Mr. Cousino was numb from the chest down, and could barely kick anymore to stay afloat.

"I could not move my body," he said. "One guy just grabbed me and pulled me up like I was a rag doll."

Exhaustion can occur within 30 to 60 minutes in 40 to 50-degree water and death within 30 to 90 minutes, authorities said.

The father and son were taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center for treatment of hypothermia. Both were released yesterday.

It was to be the pair's last trip of the boating season. They had been under way barely five minutes on Monday when they felt the impact just before 7 p.m. Moments later, water was pouring into their 21-foot vessel.

Mr. Cousino, 33, who owns an eBay listing service known as Foffuns Online Auctions, ordered Javan, a fourth grader at St. Paul's Lutheran School, Napoleon, to grab a life jacket as he called his wife, Christina, on his cellular phone.

"I called her and said, 'We hit something. The boat's going down,'•" Mr. Cousino said yesterday before being released from St. Vincent.

As they talked, the water rose. It reached Mr. Cousino's knees, then his waist, in seconds.

Mrs. Cousino remembered how life seemed to move in fast-forward from the moment she got the call. "I said a prayer as soon as I got off the phone."

Mr. Cousino then dialed 911 and spoke to a dispatcher as he and Javan were nearly swimming. Their boat then rolled and capsized, plunging them into the bay.

They fought to keep their heads above water and tried their best to kick their way to shore. Mr. Cousino told his son not to bother yelling until they could see someone who might hear them.

"I told him, 'Save your energy, bud, because you're going to need it,'•" Mr. Cousino said. "The way I looked at it, we were on our own."

Yet not once did Mr. Cousino consider the possibility that he and Javan might not make it to shore.

"He wouldn't let me," Mr. Cousino said, hugging his son as they sat on a hospital bed.

With pride in his voice, he recalled what his son told him while they were in the water.

"He looked at me and said, 'Dad, Cousinos never quit.'•"

The father added: "He never panicked, cried - nothing. He just kept kicking."

Then the crew of the freighter heard the Cousinos calling for help and spotted them at about 7:20 p.m.

The Cousinos were taking their boat from Harrison Marina on North Summit Street to Bi-State Marine Service in Erie, Mich., where they store it for the winter.

Mr. Cousino said he has made the trip many times and, even though it was getting dark by the time they cast off, did not consider the voyage hazardous.

"[Javan] wanted to go to McDonald's, and I told him, 'It's only a 15-minute boat ride. We'll stop when we get there,'" Mr. Cousino said.

Yet in hindsight, he said he regrets not realizing how recent high winds could have blown debris, such as tree limbs or even trees into the water - threatening his boat.

Javan was unconscious during parts of the ordeal and, at one point, was listed in serious condition in the pediatric intensive care unit at St. Vincent.

But after starting his day with breakfast in bed, he was all smiles by late yesterday morning.

"Do I get to stay here another night," Javan asked his mom and dad. "It's like a vacation."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com or

419-724-6050.



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