SOUTH HERO, Vt. – A crew from the Colchester Causeway Bike Ferry got some special recognition from the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday for rescuing seven people in Lake Champlain earlier this month.
Coast Guard officials were so impressed with the crew’s work that they came down to the causeway to express their gratitude and thank them for their heroic act.
The rescue happened the afternoon of July 6. Winds were gusty, reaching 25-30 mph. The ferry crew – Cpt. Brian Costello, former Coast Guardsman and deckhand Frank Malaki and Captain-in-training Richard Schattman – tracked down and rescued four people. Three kayakers — including one in the water — were rescued a short time later.
All seven of the boaters were wearing life jackets and were unharmed. The crew gave them warm clothes, shelter from the wind and bottled water.
The rescue occurred just days after 41 year-old Eric Plett of Weehawken, New Jersey, went missing after falling out of his kayak near Shelburne Point. Plett’s body was recovered several days later after a search by the Coast Guard and state police.
“Any good Vermonter would respond to people in distress, whether it’s on the water or on land, and we happened to be the closest,” Costello said. “We also happen to have an experienced and trained crew.”
While the crew members were modest about their efforts, Sector Commander Brian LeFebvre of the U.S. Coast Guard made sure to give them the recognition they deserved.
“I applaud the crew, their dedication and selfless service to the boating public, and I am truly thankful for the professional seamanship that you exercised in response to these potentially grave situations,” LeFebvre said. “Bravo Zulu for a job extremely well-done, and thank you very much.”
LeFebvre urged boaters to be safe out on the lake.
“Anything can happen at any given time when you’re on the water, even when you least expect it,” LeFebvre said. “It’s always important to be wearing your life jacket, especially if you’re on a paddle-craft or in a kayak.”