Shipwreck survivor thanks USCG team that saved him

It was quite a sight to see. A shipwreck survivor and the heroes who saved the day reunited.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- The last time Jack van Ommen saw his Coast Guard rescuers, it was a far different scene. In the middle of the night, back on June 23rd.

"It was totally dark, no moon and I couldn't see which direction I should be going get off the shallow ground," he said.

The 80-year-old van Ommen's 30 foot wooden sailboat, the Fleetwood, had run aground off the Virginia Eastern Shore's Mink Island, it was taking on water fast.

"We got a call saying 'mayday' over the radio, and immediately you just jump into action," said OS2 Brittany Wygand, who took the 'Mayday' call.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was launched from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina and deployed a rescue swimmer to hoist van Ommen from his life raft as the sailboat sank.

It was AST3 Sam Fuller's first rescue.

"This is my job, this is what I do," he said. "I wouldn't call myself a hear. It was a huge team that pulled this off."

Wygand agreed. So it's definitely a humbling experience to know that our job here is actually saving lives," she said.

Van Ommen concurred.

"I'm really very grateful for all to you guys, what you've done, the Coast Guard," he said. "This is not the first time I've had help from the Coast Guard. "With your help, I'm getting another lease on life. It's as simple as that. So thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart. You guys did a fabulous job."

Van Ommen suffered a gash to his shin in the wreck. The boat sustained $19,000 worth of damage. He is rebuilding over In Cape Charles. As he says on his blog, "The Fleetwood will rise again."


© 2017 WVEC-TV


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