Without the State Police helicopter and the men who flew it, Jake Waterman and Drew Coveney said, they would probably still be stuck in the Halifax swamp where they spent a frightening, frigid night in December.
The two 12-year-old Halifax boys had a chance Wednesday to thank John Pina and Mark Costa, the troopers who flew the helicopter, at Plymouth Municipal Airport. The troopers gave Waterman and Coveney State Police hats and badges, and the boys gave the troopers gift cards to Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I’m really glad we got to meet the people who made it happen,” Coveney said in a phone interview. “They’re funny guys, and they do great work.”
Coveney said all the troopers in attendance at the event joked with him and Waterman about not wandering in swamps again while they showed the boys the State Police Air Wing helicopter used to locate them.
“If the helicopter wasn’t that high-tech, it would have been like finding a needle in a haystack,” Waterman said.
On Dec. 28, Waterman and Coveney were trying to hike across a forest near their homes when they realized that it was getting late and that they had taken too many turns to find their way back, they said.
Waterman had a cellphone and was able to call his family about 4:35 p.m., who contacted authorities and initiated a search-and-rescue operation as the boys sat lost in a swampy area for hours. Waterman then got on the phone with Pina and Costa in the helicopter, trying to guide the troopers to the boys’ location.
“We were both happy somebody was there for us,” Coveney said, recalling the moment the boys spotted the helicopter overhead. “But that last step, figuring how they were going to get us out of there, that took the most time.”
By the time rescuers had reached the boys, their feet were too cold for them to walk, said Coveney’s father, Richard . The rescue team waded through the swamp with two survival suits for the boys and then carried them out.
“It’s amazing how highly specialized and skilled these guys are,” Richard Coveney said.
Rather than feeling embarrassed to meet the men who carried them out of such a sticky situation, Waterman and Coveney were put at ease by the troopers’ friendly natures, the boys said.
“They were all very nice and funny out there,” Waterman said. “They’re just great guys.”