In the span of about 45 minutes, David Esposito and his two-person crew saved eight people, including a 2-year-old, from the roiling waters of the Susquehanna River during a violent hail storm with 65-mph winds.
The two rescues received no media coverage — until now — says David Esposito, 48, who resides in Strasburg, Pa., and was running his 2006 Sea Ray Amberjack 270 when the Aug. 15, 2010, storm hit. Nearly a year later, I asked Esposito and one of the boaters he rescued, 23-year-old Shane Youlton, to recount the events of that day.
"Nobody knew these people were in trouble. Nobody knew they were in the water, and nobody else was close enough to save them," says Esposito, who grew up in Stamford, Conn., boating on Long Island Sound. "In the end, two boats and eight people were saved with no injuries."
Click play to hear Esposito, his wife, Darlene, and one of the survivors recount the ordeal.
The storm developed quickly. Esposito, his wife, Darlene, and their friend Gary Sikorski began motoring back to the Port Deposit, Md., boat ramp on the Susquehanna. Pounded by hail, they heard the screams of three people whose 15-foot bass boat was swamped.
Powerless and without communications, the boat was drifting fast and about to crash into a concrete Interstate 95 bridge pylon. Minutes after retrieving the three boaters — two men and a woman in their early 20s — and getting their boat under tow, Esposito and crew again heard voices.
This time it was three people in the river — a man (Youlton) and two women in their early 20s, huddled and holding a 2-year-old girl. The women and girl were wearing PFDs, but Youlton didn’t have time to put his on. They had become separated from their 1959 14-foot Whirlwind, which sank after being swamped by a wave.
"When we got there, all we heard was, ‘Save our baby, save our baby,’ ” says Esposito.
Esposito and his crew had one more rescue to make. A fourth crewmember — another woman in her early 20s, who couldn't swim — was still with the Whirlwind, clinging to the bow.
"She kept screaming, 'No, I am not letting go! I can't swim!' " says Darlene Esposito, 56, a chiropractor.
They got a life ring to her and were able to pull her aboard the Sea Ray.
Youlton, who owns the Whirlwind, a wooden runabout given to him by his father, says he had nightmares for weeks after the incident and was unable to get on a boat for months.
"In another 20 minutes I would have been dead," says Youlton, an iron worker from North East, Md.
He was able to recover the boat and has used it this summer. "I told [Esposito] I don't know how to ever repay you. It was the scariest day of my life."
Look for a complete report in the September issue of Soundings.