Christopher B. Vaile saved Joshua G. and Ruth M. Epstein from drowning, Wilmington, California, July 18, 1964. Mrs. Epstein, 43, and her family, along with the pilot and another man, were aboard a 30-foot cruiser near a fueling dock in the Cerritos Channel when there was an explosion which demolished the stern. Fuel tanks of the cruiser were filled to capacity. All of the Epsteins sustained injuries and burns. The explosion hurled Joshua’s sister into the water, which was 25 feet deep, and she swam to the dock. Joshua, 9, his brother, and his father were thrown overboard by the pilot, who then jumped into the water and also swam to the dock. The other man jumped overboard with Mrs. Epstein. The boat sank at the stern, the bow rising 12 feet above the water. It caught fire, and flames rose 30 feet into the air. Patches of gasoline burned atop the water. Among those attracted was Vaile, 18, schoolboy, who ran 470 feet to the end of the dock. He removed his shoes, dived into the water, and swam to Joshua, who was treading water feebly due to a broken leg. Vaile towed him 20 feet to the dock. Meanwhile the other man who had been aboard had supported Joshua’s brother despite severe injuries. When a youth in a dinghy reached them, they and Joshua’s father clung to the small craft. Vaile next swam to Mrs. Epstein, who had a broken ankle. He reached her 15 feet from the flaming cruiser and within five feet of gasoline burning on the water. She flailed wildly and tried to break away because she thought her daughter still was on the cruiser. Vaile towed her 20 feet to the dock. In the meantime another man had entered the water and aided Joshua’s brother, who had started to swim from the dinghy to the dock. Vaile swam 15 feet to the dinghy and aided in moving it to the dock with the two men clinging to it. The injured persons recovered after extensive hospitalization.
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