A brief delay hitting the sack might have saved crewman

Florida man was alert, dressed when ship was struck by freighter

February 26, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Good thing Roy Young dallied a bit while getting ready for bed. He might be a dead man otherwise.

Young is one of five known survivors who made a harrowing escape from the tugboat Swift yesterday morning after it collided with a freighter on the fog-shrouded Elk River and sank.

In a span of 10 minutes, the 48-year-old Young would rush onto the deck, spot a man going overboard, feel the boat roll, jump into the frigid water, dive as deep as he could and then swim until he could swim no more.

"He said no way he could've swum another stroke," his relieved wife, Gloria Young, recalled after talking to him from their home in Middleburg, Fla.

This is his story as told to her:

A veteran member of the dredging crew, Young was headed to a job in Delaware and had just come off an overnight shift. He had brushed his teeth, shaved.

But unlike two coworkers, he hadn't yet climbed into his bunk; he still had on jeans, sneakers and a sweat shirt.

It was about 6:40 a.m. when he heard a loud bang that made him jump. Rushing onto the deck, he felt another jolt, then saw a fellow crew member pitching into the frigid water.

Just then, Young felt the tug start to roll. So he flung himself into the water.

Within seconds the tug was sinking, and Young was in the water with it. He knew the spinning tugboat could thwack him under water, so he found something to push off and dove as deep as he could.

After surfacing, he began swimming. Fortunately, he hadn't worn the jumpsuit his wife nagged him to put on for warmth. It could have weighed him down.

Because of the mist, he could not see a thing. "He was hollering for help," his wife said. "It was so foggy. He wanted to make sure they knew he was out there."

He finally grasped a floating board, maybe a two-by-four, and clung to it. After about 10 minutes, crew members from a second tug plucked him from the water, and he was treated at a nearby hospital for mild hypothermia.

Sometime yesterday morning Gloria Young got a call from Norfolk Dredging Inc., her husband's employer, that he had not been seriously hurt.

By the time she spoke with her husband a few hours later, he was sitting in a supervisor's truck, swaddled in blankets.

There was no word on his two friends on the dredging crew, or two others missing from the Swift.

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