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By Mirembe Martina

A man swam for five hours to try to find help for his family which was drowning after their boat capsized.

46 year old John Franklin Riggs was with his family when their 16 foot skiff capsized. However, thirty minutes afterwards, there was no help yet with them were two children who were helplessly clinging onto the capsized fishing boat. That was when Riggs set out to swim for 5 1/2 hours for three miles.

Man Swims 5 Hours to Find Help for Drowning Family

“It wasn’t an option, it just had to be done because they had been out there all night,” Riggs said, adding that the lives of his father, sister and young niece and nephew depended on it. “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.”

He managed to reach the first house around 1 a.m. on Wednesday despite having set off at 7:00pm when the boat capsized. “I’ve been swimming since sundown; I need help,” Riggs said. The owner of the house, Angela Byrd phoned 911 and the Deal Island fire chief, whom she knew. At around 3 a.m., eight hours after the boat capsized, a rescue helicopter hovered over the relieved family members, who were soon surrounded by members of the Mt. Vernon Volunteer Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“There were a few storms in the area, and the boat turned upside down,” Sgt. Brian Albert of Maryland Natural Resources Police said. “Mr. Riggs swam to shore. These people are very lucky. No one was injured.”