Robert J. Selfridge III

“This could be a one-way trip,” one eyewitness told rescuer Robert J. Selfridge III, 58, of Harvey Cedars, New Jersey, before he dove into the Barnegat Inlet on Aug. 7, 2022, to rescue a 4-year-old and her mother who were trapped inside the cabin of a capsized boat sinking off the Jersey coast. He was the fourth trained and experienced rescuer to attempt to swim under the gunwale of the boat and enter the cabin, but cold water, and limited visibility thwarted the efforts of the other three. Four-year-old Ryleigh Krause sat on her mother’s shoulders, and they both kept their heads above water in an air pocket inside the cabin. As the boat sank, the air pocket shrank and water rose to the mother’s chin. Selfridge, an off-duty EMT and volunteer lifeguard, arrived at the scene on a WaveRunner to find rescuers using towboat lines to attempt to right the 23-foot-long boat. After determining those efforts were not working and racing against the setting sun, Selfridge told other rescuers “We gotta go under” and, borrowing a diving mask and taking several deep breaths, submerged, swimming under the gunwale and into the cabin. Maneuvering around broken railings and debris, Selfridge took Ryleigh from her mother, told her to take a deep breath, and, carrying her, swam out of the cabin, out from under the boat, and surfaced, the mother following. Selfridge sustained a broken finger but no life-threatening injuries.