Man plucked from water moments before sailboat sank meets his Coast Guard rescuers

Posted at 11:51 AM, Aug 16, 2017

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - A man rescued by the Coast Guard in June got the chance to meet those who saved him from the Chesapeake Bay.

Jack Van Ommen was on his 30-foot sailboat Fleetwood en-route to a boat show in Connecticut when it began taking on water around 4 a.m. near Myrtle Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

"All of a sudden I wake up feeling that the boat is grounded. It was very difficult for me to orient myself where I was," he shared with News 3 anchor Todd Corillo on Wednesday.

Van Ommen issued a mayday call and launched a life raft from his sinking boat.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina responded, deploying rescue swimmer PO3 Sam Fuller into the water for what would be his first operational rescue.

"I saw him down in the water. They hoisted me down about 75 yards from where he was. I swam over to him and pulled him out of the raft," PO3 Fuller explained.

In Portsmouth, PO2 Brittany Wygand was on the team of watchstanders who responded to the mayday call, deploying assets to rescue Van Ommen.

Meeting him in person on Wednesday nearly two-months later marked a first in her career.

"It’s an awesome experience. I’ve never once met anyone that I’ve had a hand in helping to rescue. It’s definitely a very humbling experience to know that our job here is actually assisting in saving lives," PO2 Wygand explained.

Van Ommen expressed his gratitude to the crew members who saved his life.

"With your help I’m getting another lease on life. It’s as simple as that. So thank you very very much from the bottom of my heart."

Van Ommen hopes to continue sailing around the world once repairs to his boat are finished.