- The St. Paul Park refinery fire department received a call from the local fire department requesting assistance after a boat capsized on the Mississippi River.
- The crew from the refinery rescued the person in distress whose boat had flipped over due to rough waters downriver from the Marathon facility.
- No one was injured during the rescue operation, which was also aided by a Good Samaritan.
The call came in at 2:45 p.m. on Monday, July 18 from the City of St. Paul Park’s assistant fire chief.
“He asked me ‘do you have boats in the water?’ I told him we have three in the water. What do you need?” said John Wright, Fire Chief at the St. Paul Park refinery. “He said ‘we have a person in distress on the river. His boat capsized. Can your crew assist?’ I said, of course, absolutely. I’ll get folks on the water right away.”
Wright, who is also a captain for the St. Paul Park Fire Department (SPPFD), which operates as a volunteer agency, said at that point they didn’t know the severity of the situation. They did know that wind gusts up to 30 mph made the waters on the river that day very choppy, and they didn’t have time to waste. Within ten minutes, Wright and his crewmen Matt Foss, Jonathan Buck and Grant Lillivis made contact with the person in distress about a mile downriver from the refinery.
“...they didn’t know the severity of the situation. They did know that wind gusts up to 30 mph made the waters on the river that day very choppy, and they didn’t have time to waste.”
“Luckily for him, he was able to find his way on top of his flipped over zodiac (a small boat),” said Wright, who also credited a Good Samaritan who saw the man struggling and was able to tie his pontoon boat to the overturned vessel until help arrived. “We were able to safely get him off the boat and onto the pontoon boat. Then we uprighted his boat and got him and his boat back to shore. So, all ended well.”
Wright said the boater was more embarrassed than anything but also very appreciative of the collaborative effort to ensure his rescue, knowing the rough conditions on the river that day could have caused a much different ending.
“That’s what we do. We’re here to help people,” Wright said. “We may work for a private company, but at the end of the day, Marathon is very much a part of this community, and we’re always happy to help.”
Joe Kegley, Assistant Fire Chief for the City of St. Paul Park, made the call for mutual aid.
“Marathon is a great community partner, and this recent rescue effort by its Fire Department is another example of that ongoing commitment to our shared community,” Kegley said. “Strong public-private partnerships like the one we have with the St. Paul Park refinery are critical, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our people.”