When the Coast Guard in North Bend, Ore., got a report early yesterday that the crew of a commercial fishing vessel was stranded in a life raft after their boat started taking on water, it sent a chopper, a USCG release notes. But after 27-year-old rescue swimmer Darren Harrity was lowered into the water, the copter's hoisting mechanism malfunctioned—and Harrity realized he would have to rescue the four men, each wearing a survival suit, on his own, KOIN reports. "I think the pilot said, 'Harrity, you're going to be doing a lot of swimming tonight,'" he tells KPTV. And that's exactly what he did, pulling each man 250 yards to shore in the dark, through 57-degree water, 5-foot waves, and 30mph winds, per KOIN. He didn't have a flotation device, either.
"It was just me and my muscles and that's it," he tells KPTV. He reveals to the station what did assist him: rip currents. In a guest post on the Shallow Water Blackout Prevention site, Harrity notes he "grew up as an avid surfer, swimmer, and spear [fisherman]" in Florida and that the Coast Guard swimming rescue program he underwent required "immense underwater confidence." He proved that confidence yesterday with his 1,750-yard accomplishment, but then the helicopter, which met the men on shore and loaded them up, was apparently too heavy to carry Harrity as well—so he hitched a ride home, per KPTV. A Coast Guard spokesman, meanwhile, tells the Washington Post that Harrity's "monumental effort" was "an amazing kind of feat. But that's what our rescue swimmers train for." (The Coast Guard recently saved a man and his dog stranded at sea.)