A Survivor’s Tale: DC3 Matthew Russell

Russel family

MIAMI – DC3 Matthew Russell and his wife Troy walk up the pier after being rescued by the Coast Guard, March 24, 2011. Behind them are Jacob and Chris Russell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA1 Krystyna Hannum.

DC3 Matthew Russell video documentary

Click on the image to watch a YouTube video of DC3 Russell recounting the events after being rescued March 24. U.S. Coast Guard video by PA2 Nick Ameen. The video can also be found in the Coast Guard Visual Information Gallery at http://cgvi.uscg.mil.

As one of the Coast Guard’s missions, search and rescue is at the core of every member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Coast Guardsmen stand the watch and are ready to answer the call, deploy rescue resources and plan searches.

Recently, however, one Coast Guardsman found himself being rescued as the Coast Guard came to his aid after a routine fishing trip with his family took a turn for the worse.

On the evening of March 23, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Russell along with his dad, brother and wife were out swordfishing about 20 miles east of Palm Beach, Fla., when things suddenly went wrong.

The boat began taking on water and capsized within minutes, sending all four people overboard.

Chris Russell embraces his wife

MIAMI - Chris Russell embraces his wife, Denise, at Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet, Fla., after he was rescued. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA1 Krystyna Hannum.

Without a VHF radio or an EPIRB to alert rescuers of their distress, Russell and his family were left stranded at sea. Thanks to his dad’s courageous efforts they retrieved life jackets and survival gear from the boat. But with only flares, a signaling mirror and a whistle to catch the attention of a possible rescuer, they drifted clinging to their overturned boat hoping for help to arrive.

Early the next day, nearly 12 hours later, a Coast Guard aircraft flew overhead but it was too far to notice the signaling mirror. Thirty minutes later, the aircraft made a second pass and located Russell and his family.

A life raft and swimmer were deployed and a Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet small boat was sent to take Russell and his family to shore.

“The next time we go out, we will definitely have life jackets in a much more accessible place where they can be put on within seconds and have a VHF radio right next to the helm so the captain can hail a mayday,” added Russell. “Definitely invest in an EPIRB because it can get you rescued much quicker.”

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