Courage Under Water

Even though the snow makes spring seem like a distant memory in Plymouth, Mass., last May, an ocean rescue that saved five lives is still vivid for Plymouth harbormaster Joe Ritz.

"I've been here since 1989. We've never lost that many. That would have been the worst one in my tenure here," says Ritz.

The date was May 26, 2002, the last weekend before Memorial Day.

"It was cloudy that morning. Southwest wind around 10 miles an hour," Ritz recalls.

"Once you get around the corner, then you'll see open ocean," says Greg Lima. He grew up in Plymouth's harbor and captained the boat that made the rescue that day.

"This particular morning we were out mackerel fishing. And we decided that we were going to run up a mile or so to the southwest and drift back," says Lima.

That same morning Rhode Islander Kevin O'Sullivan couldn't wait to take his sons on their first outing of the season.

"I like taking the kids out there because there's mackerel out there. They're small fish but you catch a million of them. So the kids have a ball. They catch one after the other, 3 or 4 at a time and they just love it," says O'Sullivan.

His boat had been repaired over the winter but something was about to go terribly wrong. They were fishing 2 miles off shore. It was 9 a.m.

"We started the boat up, I went forward maybe ten feet, all of a sudden the bow was just looking up at the sun. And I heard the motors and it sounded crazy. I turned around and the back end was already under water just like that and it went just went down basically like the Titanic," O'Sullivan says.

"And I was just about to throttle up when I thought I heard something or a very faint help or a hey or something but it caught my eye and I looked, I said, geeze, I think those guys are in trouble," Lima recalls.

"Then when I come up with my 4-year-old son, Michael, Brandon, 12 year-old son, was there and I gave Mikey to Brandon and I said just take care of your brother. Start swimming towards that; that was Greg's boat," O'Sullivan recalls.

Family friends, 10 year-old Joshua Messier and 55 year-old Arthur Ring, were still missing.

"He (O'Sullivan) dove down into his vessel that was sinking. Apparently Josh was in an air pocket and he grabbed Josh and the next thing I know they both come bobbing up to the surface. Now I got three in the water," Lima says.

After Josh was pulled into the boat came another dangerous moment as Lima carefully positioned his boat.

"So now we are going to try to get the two adults on board. And you can't get them off the bow. You have to back into them with my propeller to get them into the boat," Lima says.

A 911 call alerted harbormaster Ritz, who sped to the scene.

"As we got going we got more information that Mr. Lima had picked people up out of the water. One of them wasn't breathing and they were attempting to do CPR on him," Ritz says.

"I said to them, do what they do on TV, I said, blow some air into him. So they give him a couple of pumps and O'Sullivan blew some air into Arthur and you could see his mustache just starting to, he was breathing," Ritz continues.

Lima headed back into Plymouth harbor with Kevin O'Sullivan's family and friends safe and accounted for. In Plymouth harbor more than one hero returned that day. But for Kevin O'Sullivan a simple ride meant more than he could ever say.

"Believe it when I say it, thank you very much," says O'Sullivan as he exchanges hugs with Lima.

"I want to go give him a picture of all of us and tell him when he has a bad day to just look at that and remember that he did that and I think that that will make him feel a little better," O'Sullivan says.