PATTERSON — A 25-year-old man on a fishing trip with his father was able to call 911 after his boat overturned Tuesday and St. Mary Parish sheriff’s deputies found them clinging to the boat about 35 minutes later, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said.
Michael Turcuit and Russ Turcuit, 58, both of Addis, were taken to Franklin Foundation Hospital for treatment for hypothermia, LDWF enforcement spokesman Adam Einck said.
“His cellphone being able to get that call out probably saved their lives,” Einck said, noting that four men who died of hypothermia after their boat capsized in the Gulf of Mexico in February had become unresponsive after about an hour in the water.
Einck said Turcuit called 911 about 8 a.m. Tuesday. The men had gone out onto Duck Lake, about 10 miles north of Patterson, to retrieve a duck that was floating away. Their 16-foot aluminum boat hit an underwater object, made a hard right turn, throwing them out, and flipped, Einck said.
Officials said another life-saving fact was that Turcuit’s father wore a kill switch — a battery plug attached to a lanyard so it will cut off the battery and stop the engine if it is pulled out.
“We have seen boating incidents similar to this one that turned fatal because the operator was not wearing a kill switch and the runaway boat hit ejected people in the water,” said Col. Winton Vidrine, head of law enforcement for the agency.
Einck didn’t know whether Turcuit had his phone in a plastic bag or protected it from the water some other way.
“One of our lieutenants was talking to them, giving them survival tips in cold water — stay alert, talk to each other, don’t let each other drift off or fall asleep, hold onto each other. He got the cellphone number and tried to call back a little later, but it went straight to voicemail,” Einck said.
He said deputies arrived only a few minutes after that attempted call.