In a video that has gone viral, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer approaches a boat floundering in heavy seas, it takes a mammoth breaking wave on the beam, the boat capsizes, and the sole occupant is thrown overboard.
According to the US Coast Guard Pacific Northwest Twitter account, the man was rescued and flown back to base where he was evaluated for medical attention.
“Talk about arriving in the nick of time! While conducting a training mission at the mouth of the Columbia River, 2 Coast Guard air crews received a #MAYDAY broadcast from the master of the P/C Sandpiper,” the Coast Guard tweeted.
The agency deployed a 47-foot lifeboat and a Jayhawk helicopter, while also mobilizing members of the National Motor Lifeboat School, who were on a training exercise nearby. “The surf made rescue by boat dangerous, so the aircrew decided to lower the rescue swimmer and have the owner enter the water for rescue.
Just after he entered the water the vessel capsized but the rescue swimmer was able to safely recover the individual,” the Coast Guard tweeted.
USCG Hero of the Day
The swimmer, Petty Officer 1st Class Branch Walton, of Greenville, South Carolina, reached Jericho Labonte and pulled him to safety. The helicopter crew flew him to Coast Guard Base Astoria, where medics treated him for mild hypothermia and transported him to a hospital.
Rescue Takes a Bizarre Twist
Matt Hansen, the head of port security for Astoria, Oregon, saw the video of the rescue released by the Coast Guard and recognized the 35-foot boat. After contacting the owner, he confirmed to police that it had been stolen from the Port of Astoria.
The yacht’s owner, who lives in nearby Warrenton, Oregon, reported the vessel stolen later Friday, the police chief said.
The hospital had already released Labonte when police saw the Coast Guard photos and video and realized it was the same person who they said covered over security cameras at the Goonies house and left the dead fish on the porch.
Police were still looking for Labonte on Friday evening.
And then it got stranger. Days earlier, Labonte had filmed himself dropping off a dead fish on the front porch of a house in Astoria, where the beloved 1980s adventure film The Goonies was shot, before posting the video on social media.
Labonte, originally from British Columbia, was no stranger to law enforcement in his native Canada, either, where Victoria Police said that he was wanted on charges of “mischief, criminal harassment and failure to comply.”
‘Never seen anything this crazy’
The rescued boater, identified as Jericho Labonte, was arrested at a Seaside Warming Center the next day on charges of theft, endangering another person, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and criminal mischief.
According to Astoria Police Chief Stacy Kelly, after Labonte’s arrest he was handed over to the US immigration authorities for illegally crossing the border from Canada.
The small, commercial fishing town has never seen anything “this crazy,” the chief told The New York Times. “Not one person causing so much mayhem. That’s for sure.”
According to Chief Kelly, “the Columbia Bar is extremely dangerous under the best of conditions,” he said. “The fact he made it across the bar is miraculous.”
As for the trainee rescue swimmer who pulled Labonte out of the water, hours after the rescue, John Walton graduated from training as an Aviation Survival Technician Third Class. According to the Coast Guard, it was the first time he had saved a life.