A young man's Tuesday evening fishing trip in his boat in Maine became a sudden but important reminder about wearing life jackets to stay safe on the water.
Around 5:45 p.m., 21-year-old Connor O'Reilly found himself getting away from his boat after it sank in the Androscoggin River near the towns of Durham and Lisbon.
According to Chief Nate LeClair of the Lisbon Fire Department, which used its boat to rescue O'Reilly, firefighters believe a tie to an anchor that O'Reilly had been trying to adjust became attached to the propeller on the boat's motor, causing it to capsize and then sink.
Fortunately, O'Reilly had been wearing a life jacket and had his cellphone with him in a waterproof case.
"This part of the river is wide. You don't know which way the current's taking somebody," said LeClair, who responded in the rescue effort.
During a Thursday interview with NECN and NBC10 Boston, LeClair said a search to find someone in the water can normally be difficult. But because O'Reilly was wearing a bright orange life vest that kept him above the water, and because he was actively talking to 911 dispatchers during his trip down the river, the rescue was able to be accomplished very quickly.
"They kept him on the phone the entire time," the chief explained. "It sped up our rescue efforts dramatically, knowing where he was."
O'Reilly was out of the 60-degree water within 15 minutes of the emergency call to first responders after traveling somewhere between a quarter and a half mile on the river.
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LeClair said O'Reilly was "shivering," but otherwise OK, based on an evaluation by EMS personnel.
The fire chief added that O'Reilly was both lucky he was able to be found quickly and smart for keeping the life jacket and phone on him, since they ended up being tools that prevented a worst-case scenario.
"Time is life," said LeClair. "The faster you can get somebody out of that, the less possibility of hypothermia."