Two men who’d gone fishing Friday afternoon in a jon boat spent seven hours stranded after the jon boat’s engine died and they proved unable to summon a tow, finally resulting in a late night rescue by public safety agencies. At one point the efforts had involved the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Flagler County Fire Rescue, Volusia County’s emergency helicopter and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Eugene Nipper, 87, and James Alan Deihl, 68, had gone fishing somewhere on waters in the Hammock, possibly setting off at Long Creek preserve in Palm Coast. Nipper had been at his granddaughter Beth Barrow’s house in Bunnell earlier that day.
A little after 4 p.m., one of the two men on board reported that the jon boat’s engine had died. They weren’t in distress, but they weren’t sure where they were, neither of them being from this area. They’d called in to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Since they were not in distress, they were told that, as per regulation, they were to call for a tow rather than for law enforcement, though Flagler County Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, launched to check the area and at least locate the lost men. (In former days the men might have been rescued by Jon Netts, the former Palm Coast mayor who operated a tow boat on the Intracoastal for most of his years in Palm Coast. Netts died earlier this year.)
The sheriff’s 911 notes don’t clarify what developed with the helicopter, but by 8:30 p.m., when Barrow called in, the men were still stranded–and she was again told that a tow would have to be requested. Barrow then told authorities that the men were elderly and the wind was pushing their boat out to the point that they couldn’t row back to shore. The men, who got in contact with an official from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, had described landmarks that signaled they were in the area of Bings Landing in the Hammock, where authorities told Barrow to meet them.
The men themselves, according to a ping of their phone, were stuck in a marsh off the Intracoastal Waterway, and as time dragged on, Nipper became weak. He reported having a hard time sitting up from the strain of rowing. At 9:54 p.m., Air One, Volusia County’s emergency helicopter, launched.
Flagler County Fire Rescue deployed a jet ski a little after 10 p.m., while a Flagler County Sheriff’s marine unit was preparing to deploy an airboat. The airboat proved unnecessary as fire rescue’s paramedics reported seeing the jon boat and two men aboard at 10:13 p.m. Air One was cancelled. The jet ski’s crew towed the disabled jon boat back to shore at Bings Landing. The two men were back on shore by 11 p.m.
Nipper was tended to medically by Flagler County Fire Rescue 41 and ultimately refused medical treatment.