Mom with 4-year-old trapped in pitch-black air bubble under sinking boat on NJ coast
BARNEGAT LIGHT — Five people were recovered Sunday night from a capsized boat, including a mother and her young daughter who were trapped in a shrinking air bubble.
The group on a 23-foot pleasure craft wound up in the water off the north jetty just before 7 p.m., according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer McGee.
The rescue was one of the scariest for Bob Selfridge, a Barnegat Light firefighter and Beach Patrol member who swam underneath and got them out. He estimates they were under the boat for about 25 minutes.
"We were trying to flip the boat over using ropes. It wasn't working so I grabbed a mask and fins and I went under the boat, popped up in the air pocket, talked to the mom, grabbed the daughter and pulled them both out," Selfridge told New Jersey 101.5.
Dark and scary moments
Selfridge said the woman called 911 on her cell phone while they were underwater and told the dispatcher that their air pocket was getting smaller.
"I've been doing this a long time and it's the scariest rescue I've ever had. I've been in fires and I've been in water rescues before but to be under a boat in pitch black until she turned her cell phone on," Selfridge said.
He added the little girl was "super brave."
Selfridge credited his team, which included three Barnegat Light lifeguards and two firefighters who are water rescue specialists. He said situations like this are the reasons one becomes a first responder.
"I couldn't have asked for a better team. I couldn't have done what I did if I didn't know that they had my back. Having confidence in your team to go make a grab like that, it was one of the craziest things I've ever done," Selfridge said.
Selfridge said the State Police Marine Unit and rescue teams from Seaside Heights and Seaside Park also responded.
Three other people were rescued by the Coast Guard while one person swam to shore.
The five who were rescued were treated by EMS crews.
McGee said the cause of the capsize remains is unknown.