Three teens boating on Tampa Bay in Florida on Sunday were saved by the 15-year-old captain, who reflexively directed his friends to put on safety jackets stowed nearby when the boat suddenly began to take on water.
Tampa police rushed to the rescue in the bay’s chilly waters, but they credit the actions of quick-thinking Matt Mainzer, who has been boating all his life.
"I made them put on their life vest," Mainzer told Channel 10 News, referring to 15-year-old friends Hannah Cox and Aubin Ellis.
As the boat started to flip, officers say Mainzer had life jackets for his friends close at hand. He had the girls put them on and jump into the water so they wouldn't be trapped underneath the capsized boat.
"Just made sure we are all safely off the boat," Mainzer said.
"He like didn't freak out as the boat is sinking. I didn't even think the boat was going to sink. I thought maybe we should just get out so it wouldn't sink," Ellis said.
Mainzer has his cellphone in a waterproof case. Aubin called 911. They hung onto the capsized boat, making it easier for rescue crews to see them. About 10 minutes later, the cavalry arrived by air and water.
"It's like five boats, a bunch of boats and the helicopter," Cox said.
"We're all really happy and excited," Mainzer said.
"He absolutely did everything right under a bad situation that he had no control over," Tampa Police Department Marine Unit Officer Randy Lopez said.
Lopez said conditions on the bay had been good. A problem with the boat was to blame and the officer said he believes Mainzer’s safety knowledge and quick thinking deserve an award.