There was a dramatic rescue at Lawson’s Landing in Tomales Bay over the weekend, where a 25-foot motorboat got caught in choppy surf, and flipped over.
The capsized boat sent an Elk Grove family into the water, and trapped two children, ages five and seven, inside the cabin.
Marin County Fire Battalion Chief Bill Roberts said rescue crews scrambled to get the people in the water to shore and then quickly focused their attention on the children still stuck inside the cabin of the overturned vessel.
“The water out here’s very cold. It’s right around 50- to 55-degrees, so your exposure time is anywhere from 30 minutes to – if you’re in really good shape – an hour or two,” Roberts explained.
The Sonoma County Sheriffs helicopter was in the area and on scene within two minutes. Roberts said by the time his Marin County firefighters got to Lawson’s Landing, rescue crews had already saved three people and immediately took them to shore to waiting paramedics.
As for the two kids stuck inside the boat, law enforcement officials said the swell was too dangerous, so a U.S. Parks Service boat towed the motorboat close to the calm waters of the shore.
Crews were unable to safely flip the boat, so they used a chainsaw to cut into the hull and free the children.
Sergeant Ed Hoener with the Sheriff’s Office added despite the successful rescue, none of the seven on board had been wearing life jackets.
On the phone this afternoon, he said, “The law depends on the size of the boat. If it’s under 26-feet, you have to have a life jacket for children 13 and under, so all the children should have been wearing a life jacket.”
Roberts added that in his 27 years of being with the Marin County Fire Department, there have been an average of four-to-five similar boat capsizes in Tomales Bay, mostly due to a notorious sandbar that causes small waves to become powerful.
He said most of the time, it hasn’t ended up well. In fact, he recalled an incident just a couple years ago where “as many as four people [were] killed in one time out there, doing the same thing these people were doing yesterday.”
He added that the stars were “aligned” for the family, because someone at Tomales Point happened to spot the boat flipping over and had the cell phone signal to make the emergency call.
Precious minutes were also saved because the sheriff’s office helicopter was so close by, helping with the rescue.
“They’re lucky all seven of them survived,” Roberts concluded. “The water’s cold, rough – it’s a very frightening position to be in, and with boat rolling over next to you, they could all have been easily killed. There could have been seven fatalities.”