VDOT News - Hampton Roads



Jordan-Ashley Walker 757-956-3028

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Feb. 14, 2020

Workers receive prestigious Gedney award for rescuing three swimmers

JAMESTOWN - The flash of an orange life ring caught ferry Capt. Reggie Kirton’s eye as he waited on the dock to catch the boat leaving from Jamestown.

Kirton wasn’t on the clock during that afternoon in June 2019, but when he saw his colleague, Shipmate Nathan Bradley, running with the life ring in his hand, Kirton knew something was wrong.

His training kicked in, he got out of his car and he immediately jumped into action.

“When you see someone in trouble, you do something about it,” Kirton said.

The Rescue

Seconds before, as the ferryboat Pocahontas had approached the Jamestown pier, Capt. Edward Brooks could see swimmers dangerously far from the shore in the rough, choppy waters.

It was clear the three teenagers – two boys and a girl – were in distress.

Brooks directed Bradley to grab a life ring to assist. As soon as the ramp was down, Bradley ran down the dock to assist the girl, who was exhausted from swimming and fighting the current.

One thought was running through Bradley’s mind the whole time: “Get her safe, get her to where she can go home – that’s No. 1,” he said.

Bradley was joined shortly by Kirton, who helped to toss the ring to the struggling swimmer and pull her to safety.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew began to deploy a rescue boat for the two boys, who had been swimming at Jamestown Beach and were swept under the pier. The teens were struggling to stay above water.

“It was so choppy, the waves were just crashing over their heads,” Brooks said.

Once the rescue boat was in the water, crew members Wayne Harper and Greg Crocker guided the boat toward the boys and pulled them aboard.

In less than seven minutes, all three distressed swimmers were safe.

The Recognition

The crew on the Pocahontas that day will tell anyone who asks that they were just doing their jobs. They’ll say their extensive training and drills helped prepare them to stay calm in a crisis. Anyone else would have done the same thing, the crew will say.

But the reality is that, because of the quick response and decisive action from Capt. Brooks and his crew, three teenagers were able to return to home to their families.

Ferry Facilities Manager Wes Ripley nominated the team for the Passenger Vessel Association’s (PVA) Capt. Elizabeth Gedney Passenger Vessel Safety Award. The award recognizes association members and their employees who, through training, seamanship, and dedication to the best standards of the passenger vessel industry, took life-saving actions resulting in significant, positive outcomes.

Ripley received notice in January that PVA had decided to bestow the Gedney award on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry crew for their life-saving efforts.

“It is these types of events that need to be recognized,” the PVA writes on its website about Gedney award winners, “because we understand the safety training that PVA vessel operators have can make the difference between life and death, and they do it efficiently and effectively.”

And while a ferry worker’s primary duty is to safely transport passengers from one side of the river to another, a lot can happen in that 20 -minute ride. Crew members have rendered critical aid during medical emergencies. Babies have taken their first breaths on the ferry.

“We really are emergency personnel,” Brooks said. “To our customers, we’re first responders.”

Jamestown-Scotland Ferry Crew Members and Recipients of the Captain Elizabeth Gedney Passenger Vessel Safety Award

Capt. Edward Brooks
Capt. Reggie Kirton
Nathan Bradley
Joe Kisilywicz
Greg Crocker
Tamara Montelo
Hugh Payne
Wayne Harper
Al Stokes

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Page last modified: May 27, 2020