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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Stricken boaters laud Coast Guard

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Coast Guard may handle one or two Maumee River rescue calls a day during the height of the summer boating season.

And stranded boaters - especially wet ones - gush with gratitude by the time they've been helped to shore.

Once in awhile, "people do send thank-you cards," said Aaron Zimmer, senior chief petty officer.

Yet rarely will the Coast Guard receive the sort of thank-you as extended yesterday by members of an eight-man senior citizen crew who were rescued this summer from a sinking boat near International Park across from downtown Toledo.

Among those rescued on that July 29 afternoon was former Toledo Mayor John McHugh.

Wearing custom-made T-shirts with a photo of their sinking vessel framed tongue-in-cheek with "Maumee River Swim Team," seven of the survivors delivered a proclamation of gratitude to the Coast Guard station at Bay View Park for the four rescuers: Tom Westfall, Eric Jacobson, Ian Hileman, and Tim Walls.

"Their response was so rapid - it seemed like I blinked my eyes and they were there," said Pat Feeley, owner of the 30-foot motor boat Quiet Tyme II.

Petty Officer Tom Westfall, left, Seaman Erik Jacobson, and Fireman Tim Walls listen as a proclamation of gratitude is read, extolling the quick action by the local Coast Guard contingent. Petty Officer Tom Westfall, left, Seaman Erik Jacobson, and Fireman Tim Walls listen as a proclamation of gratitude is read, extolling the quick action by the local Coast Guard contingent.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

"They acted so professionally and so courteously that we just felt the need to say thanks."

Equally crucial that July day were the sharp eyes and quick thinking of Toledo Municipal Court Judge Timothy Kuhlman and his brother, Tony Kuhlman, the first to observe the sinking vessel, and who quickly maneuvered their pontoon boat alongside the stricken watercraft.

As Judge Kulhman jumped aboard the sinking 30-foot vessel to help bail water, six of the eight men climbed onto his pontoon craft, which already carried eight Kuhlman family members.

Quiet Tyme II continued to gradually take on water because of a hole, but the transfer of weight prevented what seemed an imminent sinking.


The Coast Guard's rescue boat and motorized bailout pump arrived soon afterward.

As the Coast Guard towed Quiet Tyme II to Brenner 75 at Harrison's marina, the Kulhmans' pontoon boat dropped off the rescued passengers at the International Park docks.

A leak in the boat caused by a hole in a depth finder was later blamed as the cause of the day's trouble.

"The only thing we can think of is one of the cotter pins rotted out," Mr. Feeley said, adding that the boat was repaired and seaworthy within two weeks.

"Yeah, it would have sunk," Judge Kuhlman said matter-of-factly yesterday when asked what would have happened without the quick assistance.

"But they had life jackets on, so hopefully it would have only been a disaster in the nature of a boat sinking and not anything worse."

Although court duties precluded Judge Kuhlman from attending yesterday's reception, he too was honored in the morning remarks.

"Tony and Tim typified the idea of the Good Samaritan," Mr. Feeley said.

Speaking of both the Kuhlmans and the Coast Guard, Mr. Feeley lauded their effots.

"They literally saved my boat from going to the bottom of the Maumee River."

Judge Kuhlman, who knew none of the men personally before the river incident, said Mr. Feeley also hand-delivered a thank-you note to his home in South Toledo.

Friends said that former Mayor McHugh, who served from 1990 to 1994, wasn't feeling well and was unable to attend yesterday's reception.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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