E. Vance Bunker helped to save Rudolph H. Musetti and Duane D. Cleaves from drowning, Matinicus Island, Maine, January 16, 1992. Musetti, 57; Cleaves, 54, and another man were on a 70-foot tugboat that became disabled and began to sink in the Atlantic Ocean off Matinicus Island. Bunker, 50, lobsterman, who lived on the island, learned of the situation through emergency radio transmissions and, with two other men, set out in his 36-foot fishing boat to aid the tug’s crew. It was dark, and the sea was choppy; high winds combined with extremely cold air to create both a wind chill in excess of 40 degrees below zero and a blanket of dense vapor that severely restricted visibility. A build-up of ice on Bunker’s boat further hampered visibility and affected electronic communications. Under those conditions, Bunker and his crew maneuvered to the tug’s last known position, en route hearing its final transmission, that the tug was going down. Musetti and his crew, washed by a wave from the up-ended and sinking vessel, clung to a wooden ladder in the frigid water. After several minutes, Bunker and his crew located them by spotting a beam of light from a flashlight that had frozen to Cleaves’s glove. They maneuvered the boat to the victims, then, with difficulty, pulled Musetti and Cleaves aboard. A Coast Guard boat which had been dispatched to the scene rescued the third man. As Bunker took his boat back to the harbor, followed by the Coast Guard vessel, the other two men removed items of their own attire and gave them to Musetti and Cleaves. The three victims, who then spent the night on the island, were severely chilled, but they fully recovered.
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