05/31/09 — Quick thinking saves crew

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Quick thinking saves crew

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 31, 2009 2:00 AM

TOPSAIL ISLAND -- Three local fishermen experienced a Memorial Day holiday they're not likely to forget anytime soon.

Stan Matthews and his two sons, Derek and Tony, were spending a peaceful afternoon at the New River Inlet. But the outing nearly turned tragic when the 19-foot vessel capsized in the shoals.

A larger boat came too close to the Matthews and doused them in the wake.

"We kept going and kind of laughed that off," said Stan Matthews.

That was just the beginning.

A second large boat forced the Matthews' vessel farther to the right and into a crosstide. The craft got swept up by a swail and dropped onto its side, which forced water into the boat.

Tony was dumped into the churning surf.

"I was forced against the bottom side of the boat and I grabbed a railing to keep from going over," said Stan. "I watched as Tony got sucked into the water. Derek, who happened to be on the right side of the boat, grabbed the steering wheel and managed to get the boat turned into the oncoming wave.

"He kept the boat from being completely flipped over."

Tony surfaced moments later about 20 yards from the back of the craft. Heavy boots weighted him down and without a life jacket, Tony struggled to swim against the current as he attempted to reach his companions.

Derek steered the boat back to his uncle and threw the engine in neutral so the propeller would not injure Tony.

"Tony grabbed the platform on the back of the boat and I kept yelling at him to get in," said Stan. "I was facing the back of the boat, so I couldn't see any of the trouble Derek was trying to steer us out of. I basically jerked Tony out of the ocean as Derek avoided disaster."

Without his son's quick thinking and fast reflexes, Stan realizes the situation could have ended differently.

"My son is my hero," said Stan. "I have no doubt that he saved us form being flipped over into rough seas. We laughed about it on the ride home, but it really wasn't funny. It could have been a disaster."

After the traumatic experience, Stan said his days of fishing on the ocean are over. He also stressed the importance of remembering to put on a life vest in any circumstance around the water.

"That's the big-picture lesson here," he said. "Any time you are on a boat and it's in motion, you should absolutely be wearing a life jacket. I don't think I will be taking my boat on any body of water that doesn't end in the word 'creek'."