Scot Smithee saved Craig A. and Andrea D. Hilty and five others from drowning, Lanai, Hawaii, March 8, 2004. Hilty, 23, and his wife, 22, were aboard a 47-foot catamaran with three other couples, including Smithee, 39, police officer, and his wife, and the boat’s two-man crew. All but Smithee and the crewmen were in the craft’s cabin, as inclement weather was fostering nine-foot-high swells. At a point about two miles from Lanai, the closest land, the catamaran abruptly flipped up from the side and overturned, trapping the cabin occupants inside with only a 1.5-foot airspace overhead. Fumes from leaking fuel tainted the airspace, in which visibility was limited, and lines and other debris in the water blocked the only exit course. The catamaran began to settle in the water, reducing the airspace, and the victims shouted for help. Meanwhile, Smithee and the crewmen, who had been thrown into the water, surfaced and mounted the overturned craft. Smithee scanned the sea for any survivors, then he assembled a line from shorter lengths of rope to use in a rescue attempt. With one end of the line tied to stern and Smithee holding the free end, he entered the water at stern. Diving to avoid the debris nearer the surface, he swam to the cabin entry, finding that his line was fully extended. He surfaced in the cabin, the airspace in which was reduced to about six inches. Smithee told the seven passengers to make their way along his extended arm to the rope, then to follow the rope beneath the debris and up to the surface. Beginning with Hilty and his wife, each did so, surfacing to mount the vessel. Smithee was the last to leave the cabin. He huddled atop the craft with the others for more than two hours, or until they were spotted by a helicopter. A fishing boat responded, and again Smithee effected the rescue of the catamaran’s occupants, taking them one at a time through rough water to a point from which each was pulled aboard the fishing boat. The boat returned all to shore safely. Smithee sustained multiple bruises about his body and a swollen arm, but he recovered.
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