of boat accident thanks the ‘heroes’ who saved him and his children
By IRENE NOLAN
reunion of sorts went terribly awry for Ernest “Lanny” Staples of Holly
Spring, N.C., and his two children.
and the children – Jayda, 9, and Dylan, 6 – survived a tragic boat
accident in Hatteras Inlet on Saturday, May 1, that claimed the life of
one person, the boat captain’s father.
said in a phone interview today that he and his children would not have
survived without the efforts of many heroes involved in the rescue.
He and the
children came to Hatteras for a weekend of visiting his uncle, Capt.
Aaron Aaron of the Tide Runner.
said it had been five or six years since the two men had seen each
other, and they were planning a weekend of going to the beach and
fishing with their children.
Saturday, Aaron took the Staples family and his son, Shane, 14, and his
father, Bob Aaron, 60, of Virginia Beach for a day of fishing for
bluefish on the outer bar of Hatteras Inlet.
said he was just trying to return a cell phone call that came in
shortly after noon when a wave hit the boat and it capsized.
overturned, he thinks, between noon and 12:30 p.m.
five survivors were not picked up until about 4 p.m. by two other
charter boat captains. They survived an incredible amount of time in
the 59-degree water in the inlet.
“It was a
long time, and it seemed like forever,” Staples said.
boat overturned, Aaron got all the survivors on the hull of the
were wearing life jackets, Staples said, with the exception of Capt.
Aaron. He thinks he gave his life jacket to his father.
has been fishing his whole life,” Staples recounted, “and he was really
calm and collected, telling us all what we needed to do.”
Bob Aaron, who had just had knee surgery, was having trouble in the
water and staying on the hull of the boat.
tried to keep him on the hull of the boat as long as we could,” Staples
said. “Aaron got under the boat and got a rope for his father to hang
not work, and eventually Bob Aaron drowned.
the while, Capt. Aaron and Lanny Staples were trying to keep the
children on the hull of the overturned boat. The two men,
said, were in the water the entire time.
telling us to stay calm. He said, ‘The fleet is going to
referring to the charter boats that start returning to the docks about
thinks that after an hour or hour and a half, the boat was sinking
lower in the water, and a large wave came and knocked all of the
children off the boat.
grabbed Jayda and pulled her back onto the hull.
doubt, he is responsible for my daughter being alive today,” Staples
he said, his son was washed right into his arms, but the two were
drifting farther and farther from the boat in the current.
“I tried to
get back to the boat, but I knew if I expended any more energy, I could
not save us.”
father and the son drifted in the current for another hour or more.
his father said, was “amazingly brave for a 6-year-old. I
tried to keep him moving and talking” to prevent hypothermia. “Toward
the end, it was pretty scary.”
about 4 p.m., the fleet did come.
Spurgeon Stowe on the Miss Hatteras, a large head boat, saw the
overturned boat and radioed to Capt. D.M. Gray, who was behind him, to
check it out.
and found Capt. Aaron, Shane, and Jayda, who by then had been pushed
off the boat by waves.
Richardson on the Backlash was the next on the scene, having heard Gray
say that two people were still missing.
went in the direction that some life jackets were floating -- toward
the beach. But Richardson noticed his boat was drifting
and struck out in that direction.
found Staples and Dylan and pulled them aboard his boat.
one of his passengers that day was a nurse, who recognized the danger
of hypothermia in the boy. She removed his wet clothing and
warming him up.
in the water probably lasted close to four hours, Staples thinks.
He and his
family are mourning the death of Bob Aaron, but thankful that all of
the others were saved.
morning, Staples went to Hatteras Harbor to meet with Richardson.
him, ‘Beyond a shadow of a doubt, if it were not for you, my son and I
wouldn’t be here today.’”
Staples says if it hadn’t been for Aaron and his son Shane, none of
them might have survived.
Aaron hadn’t kept his cool, it would have turned out differently,”
Staples said. “And Shane was so incredibly brave. He kept it together
and saved my daughter.”
children, Staples said, are doing fine. His wife, Leza, was
along on the trip and was horrified to hear of the turn of events.
Jayda, he added, has been “quiet and reserved.”
9-year-old girl,” he said, “she is disturbed by seeing someone pass on
as she did.”
said she was being more outgoing and talkative today.
doubt,” Lanny Staples said, “somebody was watching out for us that day.”
person dies when boat capsizes in Hatteras Inlet, but five are rescued
began as a family outing and a normal day of fishing for Capt. Aaron
Aaron and the five people he took on his boat, Tide Runner,
Saturday, May 1, ended with a tragic accident that claimed the life
of the captain’s father and threatened the lives of the
Apparently, the 23-foot Tide Runner was fishing just off the outer bar
of Hatteras Inlet, targeting small bluefish, when a wave caught them
the wrong way, and caused the boat to capsize, though the exact cause
of the accident is being investigated by the North Carolina Wildlife
Sometime after the accident occurred, Capt. Spurgeon Stowe, aboard the
Miss Hatteras, saw what appeared to be the bow of a boat sticking up
out of the water, and called Capt. D.M. Gray on the Native Son to
It was around 4 p.m. that Gray found the Tide Runner and rescued the
three people who were clinging to the boat.
Around that same time, Capt. Steve Richardson on the Backlash heard
Gray say on the radio that two of the people were missing, and he said
he immediately started looking for them.
According to Richardson, Gray had seen two life preservers floating
toward the shore, and was heading that way to look. That’s when
Richardson noticed that his boat was drifting northeast, and he decided
to take off looking in that direction.
“It was luck,” he said of finding the two passengers that had been
separated from the others, explaining that, considering the direction
of the wind, north wouldn’t have seemed like the right direction to go.
But Richardson decided to follow his hunch, and then, there they were,
about two miles north of the capsized boat, a father and his 6-year-old
son, drifting together in the 59-degree water.
“With the waves and the way the wind was blowing, all we could see was
an arm, waving,” Richardson said.
They stopped the boat beside near them and quickly began getting them
in the boat, starting with the child.
“When I pulled him in, he was completely limp,” said Richardson’s mate,
Luckily, a member of Richardson’s fishing party that day was a nurse,
and she immediately undressed and pulled the hypothermic child to her
body, while the others wrapped them in all the blankets they had on the
According to Richardson, the nurse said that she doubted the child, who
had been in the water for several hours already, would have lasted
another 30 minutes.
With the child safe and secure, they tossed a rope to the father, who,
after ensuring the safety of his son, had all but collapsed, Richardson
“If it hadn’t have been for the two of them being together, neither one
would have made it,” he said.
After all the passengers were safely aboard the Native Son and the
Backlash, the U.S. Coast Guard was radioed in to recover the body of
the sixth passenger, Robert Carl Aaron, the father of Tide Runner
captain Aaron Aaron.
According to eyewitness accounts, Aaron’s body had been tied to the
boat after it was clear that he was unconscious.
The Coast Guard recovered the body with its 25-foot response boat and
began CPR. Aaron was taken to the station, where Dare County Emergency
Medical Services pronounced him dead.
The Tide Runner has been recovered by Tow Boat USA.
“Wow, what a day,” D.M. Gray posted on his Facebook page yesterday
evening. “Could have ended on a better note, but could have been so
much worse. Glad that those we got are OK, but sorry for the loss of
Aaron’s father. The good Lord was watching out for those people.”
The comment was met with an outpouring of respect and gratitude from
friends and community members, including this response from island
native Natalie Kavanagh:
“So glad you were there to help them. I don't know how you all saw them
in that rough water. Goes to show what the ocean can do and it makes me
grateful when you all come home safe every day. So, so sorry that
someone did not make it home safe today. Prayers for their family are
going all around the island tonight.”
note: And earlier version of this story said there was a dog on the
boat that it had not been recovered. According to a U.S.
Guard spokesperson at Station Hatteras Inlet, the station has had many
calls about the dog and sent someone to the Aaron's family's home to
inquire about it. The spokesperson said that, according to
family, there was not a dog on the boat.)