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AFRAS Honors C-PORT Member with Lifesaving Award

AFRAS (Association For Rescue At Sea) Honors C-PORT Members with Lifesaving Award

C-PORT (Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing) and AFRAS (Association For Rescue At Sea) celebrated and presented its distinguished lifesaving award at the 33rd C-PORT Awards Banquet and Gala held on January 21, 2020 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, Orlando, FL. Presenting the award on behalf of AFRAS was Mr. Charles “Skip” Bowen, Master Chief of the USCG (retired), to Captain Bob DiSanto of TowBoatU.S. Block Island. 

This is the tenth year that AFRAS presented this prestigious award to a C-PORT member.  In 2010, AFRAS had expressed a desire to establish a program, in cooperation with C-PORT, to annually recognize a deserving member of C-PORT that has shown exceptional skill and determination to save lives during a rescue incident in the maritime environment.  The Award is to be conferred on an individual or group of individuals who perform exceptional acts in attempting to save life.  Instances where the rescuer places their own life at risk are given highest consideration.

The rescue at Block Island, RI-  

At approximately 1300 hours on August 18, 2019, Captain Bob DiSanto of TowBoatU.S. Block Island, overheard a call from the Block Island Marine Patrol to the Block Island Harbormaster. The Marine Patrol reported that they had received a call for a medical emergency and directed the Harbormaster to exit Block Island’s Great Salt Pond and respond at “wide open throttle”.

DiSanto, long accustomed to working with the Marine Patrol and Harbormaster, replied and offered to assist with the TowBoatU.S. towboat, which is much faster than any vessel operated by the Block Island Harbor Department.  Thankful for the assistance, the Marine Patrol requested that DiSanto meet them in the center of the main entrance channel.

The two vessels met in the channel, DiSanto in the 33-foot TowboatU.S. vessel, and the Harbormaster in their Oldport launch. Two Assistant Harbormasters boarded the TowBoatU.S. vessel to quickly respond to the emergency, while a third followed behind in the slower Oldport launch.
The trio exited the harbormaster at over 35 knots, all the while, receiving updates on the description and location of the vessel, as well as the nature of the medical emergency.  They arrived on scene with a 34-foot Trojan powerboat to find one individual, later identified as the grandson, driving from the flybridge, his elderly grandparents seemingly unconscious in the cabin, and his mother frantic in the cockpit, unable to open the doors to enter the cabin.

One Assistant Harbormaster jumped aboard and quickly broke through the doors to enter the cabin. As he did so, it became readily apparent that the vessel was suffering from an exhaust leak, as the noxious and polluted air began to pour out the doors.
Acting as a team, all three quickly assessed the situation and identified one victim with shallow breathing and a thready pulse. The other, bleeding from the nose and mouth, did not appear to be breathing and had no pulse at all.

Captain DiSanto immediately instructed the operator to shut down the engines and quickly placed the Trojan in a hip tow. While the Harbormasters pulled the victims from the cabin and began lifesaving measures, DiSanto motored both vessels into the harbor while managing communications, providing updates on the victim conditions, and coordinating with paramedics to transfer the patients to definitive care.
With the Block Island Marine Patrol clearing a path through the busy channel and anchorage, DiSanto brought both vessels quickly to the pier, where Advanced Life Support awaited. The victims were brought ashore and placed on awaiting aircraft for emergency transport to the mainland.  Happily, due to the quick thinking, rapid action, and seamless coordination between Captain DiSanto and the Block Island Harbors Department, the lives of both victims were saved with no permanent effects or damage.

Later, in an interview for the local Block Island newspaper, Assistant Harbormaster Kate McConville said about Captain DiSanto, “Everybody did exactly what they had to save people’s lives. Because of that, these people are still alive. (Bob’s) known as the Cardinal on the Great Salt Pond. He truly is a part of the Harbors family.”


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