Lake Istokpoga marina owner honored for life-saving
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-227-3830
Gary Albin, owner-operator of Trails End Fishing Resort on Lake Istokpoga, has been honored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for his heroic rescue of seven anglers from a sinking pontoon boat on the night of March 23.
“Without Mr. Albin’s assistance, at least three elderly occupants onboard likely would have perished,” said FWC Lt. Joe Allen, who nominated Albin for a “Service Commendation” award.
The 26-foot, aluminum pontoon boat was anchored about three-tenths of a mile west of Trails End Fishing Resort when, at about 9 p.m., the right pontoon began taking on water. Waves were 1-2 feet high and the water temperature a chilly 65 degrees.
The operator of the craft, Henry E. Padgett of Scrub Jay Avenue, Sebring, attempted to maneuver the sinking pontoon boat to the Cow House boat ramp, where Trails End Resort is located, but managed to get only part-way there before the vessel swamped. A call from one of the passengers to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office from the sinking vessel started the rescue operation in motion.
At the time of the call, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office had no vessels available to respond, and help from the FWC was not immediately available on the lake.
However, a timely call to Albin by the Sheriff’s Office produced an immediate response. Albin boarded his own pontoon boat at Trails End, located the drifting vessel and found all the passengers in the water, clinging to the partially sunken vessel. Albin was forced to enter the water himself to help some of the victims onto his rescue craft.
Albin transported all seven passengers to the Cow House boat ramp. Three of the older passengers required hospitalization for hypothermia, including the vessel’s owner, Franklin Vance of 225 Fairview Lane, Lorida.
The partially sunken pontoon boat was recovered and inspected the next day by the FWC’s Allen. An evaluation of the 38-year-old craft revealed broken deck support welds along the top portion of the starboard pontoon. The holes from the broken welds likely allowed water to fill the pontoon at an ever-increasing rate as the vessel sank lower and lower.
Visit MyFWC.com/Boating/ for more information on boating safety courses, boating regulations and boating accident statistics in Florida.