A Blaine officer had a close call when his boat began to take on water during a duck hunt, and he shared the story of how he used his training to avert catastrophe as the boat was capsizing.
Frank Caruso, 15-year-old son and his son's best friend were on Little Rock Lake in Rice, Minn., on Monday when the boat began to take on some very cold water on the way back from a very successful day.
"Our boat looked like one of those crab fishing boats on 'Deadliest Catch' -- ice all over the boat and decoys had ice also," he recalled.
Caruso said all three knew the clock was ticking after the weight in the boat combined with the ice became too much for the conditions. A weird wave surged and washed out the boat.
"I'm not really proud of this, but we weren't wearing our life jackets," Caruso admits. "We should have been. Our life jackets were with us in the boat. Each of us grabbed a life jacket and we hung onto it."
Even though his entire department has undergone training for situations like these, Caruso said he never imagined he'd have to use his specialized water rescue training to save himself.
"I was scared," he admitted.
Thanks to that training, Caruso knew that it would be difficult to swim to shore from about a football-field away. So, they grabbed the side of the boat and used it as a flotation device while they moved closer to land and finally stood.
"I was hanging onto the boat, trying to catch my breath -- and it was hard," Caruso recalled. "The water was so cold -- then, the wind was whipping so hard that I had a couple of moments thinking, 'Is this going to be the end?'"
The water that day was just three degrees above freezing, and the winds were passing by at 25 mph, and Caruso said he spent three and half hours trying to reassure the boys that help was on the way.
"I was telling the boys, 'They are going to come for us. They are going to come for us,'" he said.
Meanwhile, they used the equipment from the boat to start a fire and then stayed put because Caruso's wife knew where he went and what time they would return.
Looking back, Caruso said he has a new appreciation for the training he has and the rescuers who came to his aid -- but he also has some advice to share: