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Ferry Crew Honored for Saving Their Captain's Life

NC Ferry Division

We speak with crew members of the motor vessel Croatoan who received an honorary award for saving their captain’s life when he unexpectedly collapsed while the voyage was underway.

For more information on how to respond if you find yourself in an emergency situation, go to: http://emergency.cdc.gov/

Earlier this month, Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata presented seven crew members the “Extra Mile Award” award for their quick thinking action that saved the life of their captain. The incident occurred on June 2nd.  The motor vessel Croatoan had already made its routine voyage from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke several times that day.  But just before 2:30pm, Captain Shawn Gray, who was steering the boat at the time, suddenly went into cardiac arrest. 

 “I didn’t feel anything, I had no indications that I was getting ready to have some problems.  All I know is I woke up four days later in Vidant Medical Center in Greenville with no idea what happened.”

Crew member Sandy Griffin was the first to discover Gray collapsed in his chair.

 “When I come into the pilot house, I heard him making noises and realized at that time that he wasn’t breathing so I called for help.”

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Calling 9-1-1 is the first thing you should do if you come across someone who is unresponsive, according to EMT Paramedic David White with Hyde County Emergency Services.

“Initially finding the unconscious person laying on the ground, the first thing you should do would be to check for a pulse and check for breathing.  9-1-1 should be the immediate lay person’s response.”

Calling for help is exactly what crew member Sandy Griffin did first.  She contacted the operations manager to send an ambulance to the dock in Ocracoke.  She also radioed other crew members on the vessel to assist in the medical emergency. Griffin determined that Capt. Gray didn’t have a pulse and was not breathing.  EMT Paramedic David White says in this situation, CPR should be administered.

 “At that point, basically, the patient would be in full cardiac arrest and would mouth to mouth and CPR.”

Still 20 minutes away from their destination, Chief Engineer Zander Brody arrived to the wheelhouse, and he was asked to perform CPR.

“I determined he wasn’t breathing and you kind of… stop for a second and Sandy said get him on the floor and give him CPR and so I did.  Me and another fellow put him on the floor, I started the CRP and he got the defibrillator out.”

An automated external defibrillator machine can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore normal rhythm.  Ferry crew members are trained annually to use these types of machines in case of an emergency on the vessel.

 “We practice with rescue dummies, with an instructor and he makes sure we all do it right or we don’t get certified.”

While training on how to operate the AED machine was useful in this situation, EMT Paramedic David White says they’re actually easy for anyone to use.

 “Many of the new AED defibrillators have clear instructions on the screen.  However, most people in locations where there is a AED will be trained to use it.”

In an emergency situation, White says you should never leave the patient alone to go get help.  However, if another person is available, he recommends sending that person to find medical help.  While Chief Engineer Zander Brody was administering CPR to Capt. Gray, another crew member T.M. Daniels was sent to find ferry passengers that could assist in the emergency.  He found Pamela Fortin who was riding the ferry for her very first time to visit friends in Hatteras. 

 “While I was on the ferry, one of the crew members came up to me and said excuse me ma’am are you the woman in the car with the New Hampshire license plates on it? And I said yes, and he said would you happen to be a nurse? And I said yes, how would you know that?  And he said you have a Carteret General sticker on your car.”

Fortin is the program director at the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center at Carteret General Hospital.  She followed Daniels back to the wheelhouse to help out.

 “The crew was in the midst of doing CPR and using the AED machine, the automated external defibrillator machine very well, they were doing their job well and I just supplied them some guidance and some direction. But it was quite an experience for my first ferry ride.”

After several uses of the AED machine, Captain Gray was responding and breathing when the ferry arrived at the dock in Ocracoke.  EMTs boarded the vessel and took him in the ambulance to the airport to be airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.  Deputy director for the North Carolina Ferry Division Jed Dixon says the quick thinking effort of the crew is what saved their Captain’s life.

 “I think it just speaks miles for all of our employees.  They really go above and beyond the call of duty every day.”

After a couple months of rehabilitation, Captain Shawn Gray returned to work in August.

 “I owe them my life. They responded just like we’ve trained.  I can’t be no more grateful than I am to be alive.  Their efforts are proof positive that training works, and they done just what they needed to do.  I am forever indebted to them.”

Captain Gray is back at the helm today.  And for some crew members like Sandy Griffin, the experience is still sinking in.

 “I’m still… I’m running with him today as a matter of fact, we just come in off a run and it’s just great being able to sail with him again and have him back at work.”    

For more information on how to respond if you find yourself in an emergency situation, go to our website, publicradioeast.org.

For more information on how to respond if you find yourself in an emergency situation, go to: http://emergency.cdc.gov/

Jared Brumbaugh is the Assistant General Manager for Public Radio East. An Eastern North Carolina native, Jared began his professional public radio career at Public Radio East while he was a student at Craven Community College earning his degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. During his 15+ years at Public Radio East, he has served as an award-winning journalist, producer, and on-air host. When not at the station, Jared enjoys hiking, traveling, and honing his culinary skills.