Sea Tow Clarks Hill Lake, S.C. & Ga., Capt. Jon Gridley Recognized for July 4th Rescue.
Capt. Jon G. Gridley, co-owner of Sea Tow Clarks Hill Lake, South Carolina and Georgia, was honored with an international life-saving award by AFRAS (the Association for Rescue at Sea, Inc.) at the 25th Anniversary C-PORT (Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing) Annual Meeting on January 9 at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa, Fla.
The AFRAS C-PORT Award, which recognizes extraordinary bravery exhibited by a member of C-PORT during an on-water rescue, was presented to Capt. Gridley and his friend, Jim Masiongale, who also participated in the incident, by Steve Sawyer, president of AFRAS and retired captain, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue, at an awards ceremony on Monday night. Also in attendance were Sea Tow Services International Founder & CEO Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer and his wife, Sea Tow Executive Vice President Georgia Frohnhoefer; Sea Tow Chief Operations Officer Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer III, and Sea Tow Vice President of Operations Robert Backhaus.
Earlier in the day, Capt. David McBride, U.S. Coast Guard Chief of Search of Rescue, presented Capt. Gridley with an Extraordinary Assistance Award for his role in the rescue. In November, Sea Tow Services International also honored Capt. Gridley for his heroism with an award for “Life Saving Efforts” at the Sea Tow Annual Meeting in Fort Myers, Florida.
July 4th is a day when boaters across the U.S. traditionally enjoy spending time with their families on the water. But last year, the afternoon turned ugly for a family on a houseboat on Clarks Hill Lake (also known as J. Strom Thurmond Lake) on the South Carolina/Georgia border when an intense thunderstorm with winds in excess of 50 knots hit the area. A man and a young boy were blown into the water from the houseboat; a firefighter who was a guest on board jumped in after them, but had trouble staying afloat in the rough wave conditions.
Masiongale, who witnessed the scene from shore, immediately ran to alert Capt. Gridley. “When he came running down the dock, yelling, ‘There’s people in the water, people in the water,’ our reactions kicked in,” Capt. Gridley said. He launched his Sea Tow boat and they raced to the scene. Masiongale and Gridley quickly pulled the first man and the boy, who was wearing a life jacket, to safety. The firefighter appeared to be in danger of drowning—his head was underwater and he was about to submerge further—but Capt. Gridley was able to get him onto the Sea Tow boat and revive him by administering CPR.
“If Jim had not reacted as quickly as he did to get my attention, it could have been a very bad situation. Being in the right spot at the right time was, I think, very critical,” Capt. Gridley said. After being honored at the C-PORT ceremony, he added, “This is very humbling; it’s the highest award given to a civilian in the United States by AFRAS and C-PORT.”