Watch CBS News

Quick-Thinking South Florida Man Rescues Personal Watercraft Rider Hit By Fishing Boat

WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – A man hit by a fishing boat while riding a personal watercraft is alive thanks to the quick thinking of a South Florida man. Now, the victim of that terrifying crash is thanking him.

It was a split second decision for 21-year-old Ryan Rivenburgh.

"I took my phone out and threw my hat off and dove into the water," said Rivenburgh.

He was a deckhand on the yacht "Rebel." It was docked when the accident unfolded – a boat violently crashed into a man on a jet ski.

The personal watercraft rider had a large gash on his forehead and was bleeding. He was unconscious, but alive.

Rivenburgh jumped off the yacht onto a jet ski of his own and sped over to help the man.

"I don't remember the impact but I remember having a sinking feeling that this is happening," said Mike Higbee, the man on that jet ski "Six fractured vertebrae, mostly in the neck region, and a 10-centimeter gash."

Rivenburgh, with the help of the men who had just hit Higbee, pulled him out of the water and rushed to shore.

"I said, 'Please, tell my wife and kids I love them,'" Higbee recalled.

He was able to tell them himself.

And on Friday, for the first time since the accident, he was able to tell Rivenburgh "thank you."

"It's not every day you can save thank you to someone who literally saved your life," Higbee told him.

"Don't shy away from someone that needs help and don't hesitate to ask others to help," said Rivenburgh.

Higbee is expected to make a full recovery.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.