John Franklin Riggs Swims 5 Hours Through 'Some Of The Worst Tides' To Rescue Family After Boat Mishap

Maryland Boat Capsizes
A Maryland man swam five hours through rip tides and jellyfishes to reach help in time to save his family. Lifesaving.com

Maryland resident John Franklin Riggs put his life on the line to save the lives of family members this past Wednesday after their boat capsized. The family man was forced to swim for five hours through "some of the worse tides in the Chesapeake Bay," Donald Ford, Deal Island Fire Chief, told WBOC.

"It's an amazing story. The man's a hero. He swam from Haines Point and ended up, when he came to shore, at Hall Point."

"It is a long swim for anybody in that kind of tide and that kind of wind," said Ford. "I don't know of too many people who survive Tangier Sound in a flood tide like that," said Ford.

The incident, which occurred off the coast of Maryland's Eastern Shore, started when the boat that Riggs and his family were aboard began to take on water, eventually causing it to sink. Riggs, along with his father John Riggs Sr., sister Contessa Riggs, her three-year-old son Conrad Drake, and Riggs' nine-year-old niece Emily Horn, were left clinging to what little of the boat remained above water.

With no other boats in site, Riggs knew the only way he and his family were getting out alive was by swimming until he reached help. He quickly started his five-hour trek through a rough current, facing jellyfish, frigid temperatures, and no light.

"It wasn't an option, it just had to be done because they had been out there all night," Riggs explained

He eventually reached the home of Angela Byrd and Coral Wood, who awoke to their dog barking at a barefoot and soaking wet man on their porch. "He came to the right house," Byrd said.

"Just not knowing what's going on with them while I was gone. It was getting nasty and blowing harder. And not knowing if we [rescue crews and Riggs] would be able to find them when we got back out there," said Riggs.

Thanks to his heroic actions and apparent superhuman endurance, a rescue boat filled with Riggs and volunteer firefighters reached the family before anyone was harmed.

"I've never been so happy to see search boats in my life," Contessa Riggs told Delmarva Now.com.

"It took him five hours to swim ashore. He had to stop and grab a crab pot buoy and rest, then swim. We clinged to the side of the boat and got stung by sea nettles in the dark."

Although all family members were in seemingly good health, being stranded in the middle of the ocean definitely comes with its share of health concerns. In addition to jellyfish stings, someone who spends too much time in coastal waters runs the risk of hypothermia from overexposure to cold temperatures.

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