When a two-person racing boat flipped over on the last turn of a boat race this summer, two guys, one of whom insisted he was just “in the right place at the right time,” rushed to the rescue.
Somerset Harbormaster Robert “Buster” Ganem was just 50 yards away when the crash occurred, two miles southwest of the Braga Bridge. He and his boat were escorting a tugboat through the racecourse.
After the boat flipped, one of its crew bobbed to the surface of the water. The other, Josh Atwood, did not. He’d struck his head when the boat went belly up.
In addition to Ganem, a 24-foot Wellcraft driven by Mike Bourcicault was nearby. On that boat was master instructional diver/fire Lt. Jay Hayes.
A 21-year firefighter/paramedic of the Taunton Fire Department, and the leader of its dive team with 12 years of experience, Hayes was part of an independent rescue crew keeping watch at the race, and got him to the top in less than five minutes while Ganem waited nearby.
When Hayes found Atwood, the 250-pound man was unconscious. His seat belt was tangled around him and the hose to his air ventilator was wrapped around his neck.
The veteran rescue worker said Atwood weighed more than 250 pounds. Among the challenges were removing the boat equipment from Atwood and inflating a kind of life vest to pull the diver and victim, held up high and above Hayes’ shoulder, to the surface.
Once Atwood was on Ganem’s boat, the harbormaster went to work, dropping to his knees and performing CPR and chest compressions on the unconscious, barely-breathing Atwood.
In a business in which minutes are all important, both Ganem and Hayes raced, and beat, the clock. As Ganem worked, Atwood began to breathe a little more deeply and regularly, coughed up water, and fought back from the brink.
On the shore, most of the crowd gathered to watch the races had no idea of the grim fight being waged out on the water, where two men battled for the life of a third. And won.