NORTH WILDWOOD – The North Wildwood Fire Department used a flat-bottomed skiff to help rescue a fisherman trapped in deep mud on the marsh on Sunday afternoon.

At the same  time, then assisted in getting another person loaded onto a helicopter from a marshy back-bay island for treatment of what was described as a traumatic injury. 

According to Fire Chief Dominick McClain, on Sunday, Oct. 16, at about 4:10 p.m., the North Wildwood Fire Department were asked to help the Wildwood Fire Department with a water rescue. Wildwood Fire Capt. Ernie Troiano III told North Wildwood Capt. Michael Blizzard that the United States Coast Guard Station Cape May had contacted Wildwood asking help retrieving a fisherman who had exited his boat and was now stuck up to his waist in mud. The North Wildwood Police Communications Center sent a marine unit assignment at Blizzard's request.

McClain responded to the North Wildwood Public Safety Dock at 4th and the Bay to coordinate his team’s response. McClain contacted Coast Guard members and learned that they were on scene but, due to the low tide, they needed a flat-bottom boat and trained personnel to reach the man and pull him from the deep mud. The Coast Guard told North Wildwood that the man was stuck next to Phillip Shields Island, in the Richardson Sound portion of the back bay, about two-thirds of a mile northwest of W. Burke Avenue and the street end.

McClain assigned personnel from North Wildwood Volunteer Fire Company 1 to respond in Marine 2-1, a flat-bottom Carolina Skiff with minimal draft. McClain then assigned two personnel from the department's municipal division to respond to W. Burke and the street end with Squad-2, the department’s water rescue vehicle. McClain responded to the same location and participated in a unified command system with other agencies at the scene.

NWFD Municipal Division firefighters Bradley Ladislaw and Sam Springsteen were outfitted in new dry-suits, personal flotation devices, and helmets upon the arrival of Marine 2-1 in Wildwood. According to fire officials, because of their training and experience, rescuers knew the challenges posed by the intense pressure and suction the mud places against someone who has become submerged. Rescuers were also careful to avoid becoming stuck in the mud themselves. Rescuers boarded the Marine 2-1 with hand tools to help loosen the mud surrounding the victim and additional long-boards, a rescue paddle board, and an ice rescue sled from Wildwood Fire Department to help displace the weight of the victim and rescuers over the mud, according to fire officials.

Upon arriving in the area, NWFD personnel spoke to the rescue swimmer deployed from the USCG air asset operating on scene. The swimmer was on the man’s boat and said that another person on the boat needed immediate transport to the island to be airlifted for an unrelated traumatic injury. Both rescue swimmer and victim boarded Marine 2-1 and were assisted onto Phillip Shields Island to await hoist operations and medevac to a trauma center.

NWFD units then spoke with the submerged victim. It was determined that the man was wearing chest waders and was only beginning to experience discomfort from his prolonged exposure. NWFD personnel used a rescue paddle board to displace their weight while beginning to dig the mud away from the man’s legs. The victim was freed within 15 minutes and assisted onto Marine 2-1 to be transported to W. Burke Avenue. New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau towed the victim’s vessel to an adjacent dock and Wildwood Fire Department provided medical evaluation of the victim.

In a prepared statement, the North Wildwood Fire Department acknowledged the cooperation and coordination of local, state, and federal agencies on-scene. Operating agencies included Wildwood Fire Department, North Wildwood Fire Department, New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau - North Wildwood Station, and the United States Coast Guard's Small Boat Station Cape May and Air Station Atlantic City.