Lifesaving Teens Honored

James L. Seward

July 16, 2009

The Cooperstown Crier

By Jim Austin

COOPERSTOWN - Village lifeguards Ryan Davine and Todd Mayton were honored Monday night for rescuing a couple after their canoe capsized in Otsego Lake on Memorial Day.

During a brief ceremony at Three Mile Point, where the rescue occurred, Mayor Carol Waller said the two 17-year-olds took it stride like it was just a part of their jobs.

``They didn’t make a big deal of it. These two men knew their job and did it well,’’ she said. ``I think these young men are very, very exceptional.’’ Village Clerk Teri Barown, who is instrumental in hiring the lifeguards, said she didn’t hear of the incident until it was reported to her by Jackie West, the caretaker at Three Mile Point.

``I can’t be more proud of the all the staff here, especially Ryan and Todd,’’ Barown said.

According to West, the situation could have been life-threatening because of the couple’s age, the fact that they weren’t wearing life jackets, the temperature of the water and their calls for help. The incident happened at about 11:30 a.m. Memorial Day, the first weekend the park was open.

West said Davine grabbed the rescue board and Mayton cleared the water of swimmers before entering the water to swim toward the couple and the canoe. Davine, who initially heard water splashing before the victims’ calls, said he swam to the couple with a rescue board.

Mayton said the couple was 10 or 15 feet beyond the roped-off swimming area. When he reached Davine, the woman was seated on the rescue board and he helped the man get onto the board by going underneath the water and pushing him up.

Mayton said Davine set a calm tone for teamwork during the rescue. Davine swam the couple in, and Mayton said he followed with the canoe.

People at the park helped gather the couple’s belongings and load the canoe, Mayton said. The man had hurt his arm, but the couple indicated they would seek medical attention closer to home, he said. Waller said the canoe had life jackets in the bottom. The husband couldn’t swim, she said.

West, who gave the victims blankets, said the incident report indicated John and Janice Wood of Vestal were the canoeists. The rescue was also reported to the village in a letter written by Anne Hall the following day. Her family can often be found at the park and was there on Memorial Day.

``This story could easily have ended in a Memorial Day tragedy on the lake had these young men not taken action. You, the Trustees, the Friends of the Parks and our community at large should be very proud of them. Ryan and Todd should be commended for their efforts of acting swiftly and professionally to a potentially disastrous situation,’’ she wrote.

Monday night, Senator James Seward was on hand to deliver Citations from the NYS Senate for the two lifeguards.

``They give new meaning to `just another day at work,’’’ Seward said. ``They are outstanding students, athletes, employees of Cooperstown and outstanding members of our community.’’

Seward said it was obvious Davine and Mayton had learned some valuable, life-long lessons about the importance of training, teamwork and the value of remaining calm.

``There’s no question.

They represent all the best in young people,’’ he said. Both lifeguards have records as competitive athletes at Cooperstown Central School. Davine, who graduated in June and is bound for Germany on a Rotary exchange program, was the basketball team’s leading scorer and also played varsity soccer and baseball. Mayton, who will be a senior, has set swimming records.

The two also work at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown as lifeguards.

The rescue showed that training works, said Davine, adding that the park staff and ``junior lifeguards’’ also helped, making a gratifying team effort.

``We’re just doing our job — that’s why we’re paid to be there,’’ Davine said. ``All this fanfare is a little bit ridiculous.’’

Mayton said the rescue taught him team work is crucial, and to ``always be prepared — no matter what. We both kept our heads. We were just working and did our jobs."