To the rescue: The Metal Shark races through the waters of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park | shot by Elijah Sands

Nightmare in the Exuma Park.

A boating adventure takes a turn for the worst.

Trust Notes | Janary 2020 Issue

John and Marybeth never dreamed this would happen to them. It was just the two of them, a free-spirited couple, enjoying a clear December morning on their sailing yacht in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park when the unthinkable happened. While trying to get their vessel, “Scotland” on a mooring near the park’s headquarters at Warderick Wells, John got caught up in his lines and fell overboard. The fall broke John’s arm, and the line, no doubt at the moment taught and razor-sharp, severed his finger.

“It was about 12:20 p.m. when we received the emergency distress call from John’s wife, Marybeth,’” says Exuma Park administrator Joe Ierna. “We were out on patrol, away from Warderick Wells, but we immediately set course to go and rescue John and Marybeth.”

Before receiving the donations that made the purchase of the Exuma park’s patrol vessel possible, it would have been difficult for park wardens to respond to emergencies. The trek to save a life, rescue a disabled ship, or apprehend poachers would have been slow, inefficient, and undertaken at considerable risk to the lives of the wardens. But with their new patrol vessel, the team was able to reach John and Marybeth, safely and swiftly.

When the park wardens arrived at the scene, they were amazed at what they saw. John had somehow managed to – with a broken arm and missing a finger – haul himself back into his dinghy and navigate to the dock near Warderick Wells, where he now sat, soaking wet, with his hand wrapped.

In the remote cays near the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a strong sense of community has developed, and folks work together in times of need. Immediately after reaching John, park wardens contacted their neighbors at Bell Island, who, without delay, dispatched their medic, David, to help. While the wardens waited for David, they quickly began working with Marybeth (who as good fortune would have it is a nurse), to care for John.

The team re-wrapped John’s arm in surgical gauze, gave him medication to ease his pain, covered him in blankets, and laid him down to make sure he didn’t go into shock from pain or chills as he sat in his wet clothes.

Medic David arrived, and while he attended to John, the Exuma park team reached out to other island neighbors to secure John’s airlift, via seaplane, to hospital in the capital, Nassau.

Once they had seen John and Marybeth off safely, the park team tidied and locked up John and Marybeth’s sailboat and secured it on a mooring where they could watch over it for the couple.

In the immediate days after the accident, the team had to retrieve vital personal items and documents from the boat and deliver them to the couple in Nassau.

John and Marybeth’s treasured vessel remained under the care of the ECLSP team for over a week. Daily, the wardens would check on the boat, starting it to maintain the ship’s systems until they turned the vessel over to a captain from the U.S. that the couple had hired to deliver her back to their Florida home.

Back in The States, all went well for John and Marybeth. John had a successful surgery, and he is now in therapy to regain the use of his hand and arm. He and Marybeth regularly say how thankful they are to the Exuma park team for helping them.

When praised for his team’s rapid response and for giving aide to John and Marybeth Exuma Park administrator, Joe Ierna said,

Our donors are really the ones who helped John and Marybeth, all I did was my job. It is because of the support of our donors that my team and I are here, ready, and willing to serve and protect park visitors. It is because of our donors that we have and can maintain the tools we need, like our patrol vessel, to respond to emergencies and keep folks safe as they enjoy their time in the beautiful Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Our donors are the heroes.

It takes 25 gallons to fuel the ECLSP Patrol boat every day, but without it, we cannot respond to emergencies and help people, like John.
Please donate to help.

It takes 25 gallons to fuel the ECLSP Patrol boat every day, but without it, we cannot respond to emergencies and help people, like John.
Please donate to help.