Firefighter rescued from frigid waters off Whidbey Island

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on July 16, 2014 at 5:49 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 16 at 6:01 PM

FREELAND, Wash. -- Chuck Maddox was out checking his crab pots on his dinghy early Monday morning when a weighted line got tangled around his leg and he lost his balance.

"I went over upside down," said Maddox. "So I could see the side of the boat, my shoes, and the water."

Fifty-four degree water to be exact. He was a few hundred yards from shore, in frigid temperatures with an overturned boat that he couldn't flip over. Fortunately he was wearing a self-inflating life jacket.

It's not just habit that had Maddox wearing a life jacket, but also his training. He's actually Captain Charles Maddox with Snohomish Fire District 1. And for the first time, this veteran rescuer needed rescuing.

"I yelled a couple times and realized I had my whistle in my pocket," said Maddox.

And even though that whistle attached to his life jacket had a piercing sound, at that hour no one was out on the water.

"I probably blew on it for maybe ten minutes," said Maddox.

His neighbor Virginia Bloom was just waking up and remembered hearing someone yelling in the distance. But it was the whistle that caught her attention.

"When he started blowing the whistle, it was like something is wrong here. This is not something we should be hearing," said Bloom.

Bloom finally spotted a man hanging on to an overturned boat in the water and called for 911. After the 40 minute ordeal, the cold, wet, and slightly embarrassed firefighter was brought to shore.

"It had to be terrifying, it really did. It had to be terrifying," said Bloom.

Maddox learned a lesson first hand that he often teaches to the public.

"It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react at all. And if this would have been laying on the seat or anywhere else in the boat, it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. Because I would have been in the water period," said Maddox.
 

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