Only two days before their wedding in Scituate, Christopher Randolph and Donna-Lee LaMonica were taking a leisurely walk in the seaside town when Randolph heard the cries. “Help! Help! Save me!”
The couple spotted a man in the South River, about a half-mile from shore, yelling for help.
“I could see the white foam from him splashing around,” said Randolph, 42, who is chief of Pocono Search and Rescue in Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization of highly trained volunteers who provide search and rescue assistance.
Randolph first heard the pleas for help as the couple walked along Central Avenue on Thursday morning.
“I stopped for a few seconds and I heard him yelling,” he said. “I’m attuned to listen for someone in distress.”
The couple quickly called 911.
“You just go into adrenaline overload,” said LaMonica. “Like you want to jump in the bay and swim out to help this person but you can’t do anything. All we could do was wait.”
Scituate firefighters and police responded shortly after 8 a.m. and acting harbormaster Michael Bearce joined them. The first responders soon located the man.
“When we pulled him out of the water, he looked like he had severe signs of hypothermia,” Bearce said.
The man, who had been fishing when his kayak flipped over, had been in the water for about 40 minutes, Scituate Fire Chief John Murphy said. After being separated from his kayak, the man swam with the current to a nearby sailboat that was on a mooring and clung to its side, Murphy said.
Water in the area is about 50 degrees at this time of year, he added.
The man was taken to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth for treatment of hypothermia.
Walt Taylor, a recreational boating safety specialist for the US Coast Guard, said cold water is one of the greatest dangers for boaters in New England.
“If you’re not prepared for it when you go in, your chances of survival are very slim,” he said.
In 2014, 39 people died in recreational boating incidents in the waters from Maine and the Canadian border to northern New Jersey, according to the Coast Guard. Twenty-nine died from drowning after they fell overboard or their boats capsized.
Wearing a life jacket, as the man in Scituate did, can make all the difference, Taylor said.
Randolph and LaMonica, both of Pennsylvania, were in town to get married near LaMonica’s hometown of Malden.
The experience was not what LaMonica had in mind for the morning, but she was glad to help.
“It was a whole crazy experience,” she said. “We were just walking along the beach and this happened out of nowhere.”
It was less of a surprise for Randolph, who deals with rescue operations daily.
“For me, it’s just another day,” he said. “No matter where I’m going, I’m always paying attention to my surroundings and quite frequently I come upon situations when people need help.”
The couple are staying at a rental house and plan to be married Saturday afternoon at the Fourth Cliff resort — not far from where they helped save someone’s life.