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Water, weather and bravery

On March 16, The Weather Channel will be interviewing several active and retired rescue swimmers as well as Coast Guard Commander Martha LaGuardia-Kotite during the program “When Weather Changed History,” a documentary on the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program, according to a recent press release.

The program will begin with the Marine Electric tragedy. On Feb. 11, 1983, the 587-foot cargo ship was carrying 27,000 tons of coal along the Virginia coast bound for Massachusetts. When a blizzard swept offshore, the ship capsized, leaving only a handful of crewmembers alive, according to the release.

The Navy had a rescue swimmer program at that time, but not the Coast Guard. Both agencies responded to the accident, but collectively were only able to save three of the 34 crew.

Shortly after, the Coast Guard rescue swimmer program was born and its swimmers have since saved hundreds of lives, particularly shining during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

LaGuardia-Kotite is the author of “So Others May Live”, a collection of Coast Guard rescue swimmer stories that was published in 2006. She was recognized for her efforts by the Boating Writers International (BWI) in the organization’s annual writing contest, beating out 46 other entries in the Boating Adventures category, according to the Coast Guard Web site,

For details on air times for the program, visit

- Elizabeth Ellis