A Brunswick firefighter jumped into a river Friday night and saved the life of a man who had fallen off a boat.
The 59-year-old boat resident at Brunswick Landing Marina, who authorities say was intoxicated, fell out of a dingy and into the East River.
Richard Bue, longtime and much heralded firefighter with the Brunswick Fire Department, saw the man in distress when the fire crew arrived on the scene. The man was losing strength as he clung to the edge of the dingy while floating out on the water toward the far side of the river.
It was a situation that needed immediate action, Bue thought.
“He sized it up quick, took his shoes off and jumped right in,” said Brunswick Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Allen. “He realized by the time he jumped in, the river’s freezing cold.”
Bue kept swimming anyway, making a diagonal beeline across the river to reach the man who was clinging to his boat.
Friends and family took the 40-foot boat from which the dingy was launched to try and assist, but their efforts failed. No one could reach the man in distress.
The man was in no condition to swim ashore due to a combination of age, impairment and cold water, Allen said.
Bue made a freestyle sprint for the man, swimming against some of the strongest incoming currents on eastern U.S. seaboard. In no time, Bue had found his way inside the dingy. He then helped the man inside.
Moments later, Bue was able to help the man get from the dingy into his 40-foot yacht, which brought him back to the dock at the marina.
Allen said the man might not have held out much longer in the frigid water.
For his part, Bue did not give it a second thought before jumping into the river and battling swift currents and cold water to render aid to the stranger in distress, Allen said.
“Man, it was outstanding,” Allen said. “It’s what we live for in firefighting, where you’re legitimately saving a life. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does, it’s something special. Hypothermia would have set in and it wouldn’t have taken very much longer.”
Bue managed to tie the dingy to the yacht before they returned to the marina, the man no less for wear and tear, Allen said.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources water rescue crew also responded, as did the law enforcement arm of DNR. The DNR agents ultimately arrested the hapless dingy adventurer, city police said.
DNR agents took the man to the Glynn County Detention Center, charged with boating while under the influence.
Once the adrenaline wore off, Bue made a not-so-composed dash for the ambulance that was on scene, knowing there would be thick warm towels in the back.
In 1980, a much younger version of Allen made that same dive in the same river to help four truants who found themselves in a similar predicament.
“I still remember how cold it was when I got out of the water back then,” Allen said. “Still laugh about it. And I’ll tell you, that guy’s still alive because of Bue.”