Local resident Edwardo Zapata was enjoying an afternoon with his son Edwardo Jr. Friday, Feb. 27. But when he saw a man waving for help from where he was standing in the marsh some 400 feet from shore, he acted quickly and helped save the man’s life.
“Had you not been there and done what you did, that man may have lost his life,” Liberty County Emergency Management Director Mike Hodges told Zapata. “Sometimes people in the community just don’t reach out and help people. The fact that you stopped to help shows pure concern for other people.”
Zapata admitted he got lost, but it didn’t matter because he was enjoying the scenic view around Sunbury. Around 1:30 p.m., he stopped near a dock for a closer view of the marsh. His son was sleeping, and it was a little chilly, so he left “EJ,” as he calls him, in the car while he walked out onto the dock. After just a few minutes, he went back to his car.
EJ was awake, so he decided to let him walk out on the dock and see the water. This time he noticed a man standing in the marsh waving his hands, trying desperately to get his attention.
The man, who was not named by EMA, later told his rescuers that he was in his boat when a much larger boat came by. The wake of that boat caused his boat to capsize. He had tried to swim and wade to shore, but the cold water was causing him to develop hypothermia.
“I saw this man yelling and waving for help,” Zapata said. “If not for my son and I being there, I don’t know what would have happened to that man. I called 911. As a matter of fact, before I called 911, I went to the first house that was very close to the dock. I don’t remember his name. I went to him to get some type of emergency (equipment). There was none, so he (also) called 911. Then some fire and rescue team came.”
The chief of the fire and rescue team that responded to the call was Joseph Martin. He talked about the successful rescue and Zapata’s part in saving the man’s life.
“We received a 911 call about a person stranded in the marsh off from Sunbury at about 1:30 in the afternoon,” Martin said. “We proceeded out to the dock and verified there was indeed someone out in the marsh. We then launched our fire and rescue boat and recovered the victim. He was hypothermic.
“We loaded him in the boat and transported him to the dock where he was placed in a Liberty County EMS unit. He was then transported to the hospital. If it hadn’t been for (Mr. Zapata), I personally don’t think he’d have made it.”
On Wednesday, March 11, Zapata’s actions were recognized with a Liberty County Fire Department certificate of recognition and congratulations from Martin, Hodges and Marion Stevens Sr., the District 1 representative on the Liberty County Board of Commissioners.