Abby rescuer’s ‘saving’ grace
New York Post, June 13, 2010
The dramatic rescue of an American teen stranded in the freezing waters of the Indian Ocean almost claimed the life of the fishing-boat captain who scrambled to save her — a death-defying detail the rescued girl didn’t know hours after her rescue.
Paul Louis Le Moigne, who was at the helm of rescue ship Ile de la Reunion, was tossed into same vicious waters that crippled 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland’s 40-foot vessel, the courageous captain told The Post.
“There were many waves, three to four meters [nine to 12 feet] high,” Le Moigne said. “I was all the way in the water.”
An airplane guided Le Moigne’s ship to Sunderland’s crippled, powerless Jutson yacht.
“She was very happy to see us. She was totally calm. She was very collected,” Le Moigne said.
The ambitious 16-year-old sailor, who had been trying circle the globe, was sleeping when The Post called Le Moigne’s ship, and still hadn’t been told of Le Moigne’s near-death experience.
“I was really lucky that there was a boat that could come and get me where I was,” Sunderland told Australian Broadcasting Company Radio soon after her rescue.
She said she was fixing her engine when the storm delivered its hardest blow.
“The boat rolled all of a sudden. My whole mast was in the water … Pretty much nothing was working after that.”
Once Le Moigne’s ship reached Sunderland’s yacht, he and some crew members used a dinghy to make the rescue.
But the waves struck hard, tossing the captain from the little boat. Le Moigne grabbed the dinghy’s ladder, and his crew hoisted him to safety.
“I pulled up beside her boat, I asked if she had baggage. She said no, and she came with us,” he said.
Sunderland is bruised and tired, but otherwise healthy, her parents said. She will arrive on Reunion Island, a French territory off Madagascar, in about a week — and told the Australian interviewer that she’s already looking forward to another round-the-world attempt.