Hero wife saves three sailors' lives through quick thinking
by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 16 May 2011
It could happen anywhere anytime, but when it happens where you are will there be a quick-thinking person to take action? Will that person be you, or will you be the one that is rescued?
Hero sailor Mary Kovats tells the story SW
Three sailors are alive today because of the quick thinking and positive action of one of their wives. It happened this week on Lake Michigan in the USA. The coldness of the water of the lake added to the danger.
When, after a violent microburst of wind, Mary Kovats' husband did not return on time from a sailing trip with two friends on Lake Michigan, she knew that she had to do something.
They were all experienced sailors and members of the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club and were out for a sail on a 19-foot sailboat, Peter Pan. All were wearing life jackets. Unbeknown to those on shore, fierce winds had flipped their boat several times.
Even as lightning crackled and rain lashed the shore, Kovats told herself to stay calm because Peter Kovats and his two friends — out celebrating Kovats’ 62nd birthday — were all experienced sailors.
So she called her husband’s cell phone — twice. Then she called his friends’ cell phones.
'And nobody answered,' Kovats, a Chicago Public Schools sixth-grade teacher, recalled.
Kovats is herself an accomplished sailor and member of the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club at Montrose. She made the decision to take the yacht club’s motor boat to search for her husband, after hearing nothing from him in 45 minutes.
So at 8:30 p.m., Kovats set off with two other yacht club members. They were in such a hurry, they forgot to bring a search light, Mary Kovats said.
It didn’t take them long to find Peter Pan. It lay capsized and empty about one mile from the harbor near Irving Park, Kovats said.
'The sails were all hanging in disarray …,' Kovats said. 'I didn’t know if they were dead. I just couldn’t imagine where they were. It was terrifying.'
'We had been hit by a gust of over 75 mph and just slapped down in no time at all,' rescued sailor Peter Kovats, Mary's husband, told ABC Local.
She saw her husband floating in cold waters, semi-conscious, about 200 yards away and heard the cries of the other men in the lake.
'I spotted something, and it was Peter,' Mary said. 'We pulled him out and we could hear the others.'
'Due to the exertions I just blacked out, and we were found by the actions of my wife and two experienced sailing friends,' said Peter.
Mary Kovats and the other two rescuers pulled all three men out of the water. They had been floating for almost 45 minutes.
The rescuers removed the men's clothing and took them to Illinois Masonic Medical Center to be treated for hypothermia and shock.
'It is a miracle that they survived and are alive,' said Dr. Patricia Lee at the Medical Center. 'It is an unbelievable story of good luck and his wife. They found them. It is a remarkable story. It is a miracle.'
'It was tremendous what they did,' said rescued sailor Daniel Tenuta. 'Mary took action and saved our lives.'
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