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LOCAL HEROES: Williams grads make water rescue in dark at coast

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Two recent Williams graduates were at the forefront of a coastal water rescue on New Year’s Eve.

Caleb Fogleman and Grayson Loy turned what they thought would be a routine scouting tour regarding duck hunting on Loy’s 16-foot boat into a lifesaving mission along Adams Creek at the mouth of the Neuse River near Oriental.

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“We spent our summertime pretty much at the beach and all the time on the boat,” Fogleman recalled in an interview with The Alamance News this week. “When this happened, our adrenalin pretty much kicked in. We weren’t really talking about ‘What should we do?’”
Fogleman and Loy took quick actions. They relayed their story to The Alamance News.
In part, here’s how it happened:

“We were kind of winding down for the day,” Loy said. “That’s a big open water.”

Shortly after 5:00 p.m., they noticed a center console boat doing circles at high speed at the mouth of Adams Creek. They monitored the situation before checking more closely and realized it was an unattended watercraft. Fogleman made a call to 911.

“The first thing we do is look for people in the water,” Fogleman said.

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Soon, they discovered an arm coming up from the water at a channel marker that was approximately 400 yards from shore. The man’s head was barely above water. “Hanging on for dear life,” Fogleman said.

The teenagers described the man as in shock from the cold water, weighed down by layers of clothing and large boots. It was about 45 degrees.

They pulled him onto their boat. Fearing that the shivering man might be freezing in his soaked clothes, they gave him their warm clothes to replace his soaked attire.

When the man regained some comprehension, he was able to use a phone from one of the teens to call his wife. She reached a friend who hurried via boat to the scene.

“He started telling us what happened,” Fogleman said of learning how the man fell overboard.

“I was sitting there shivering, but not as much as him.”

Dusk had turned to darkness. There was still an unmanned boat in motion, without navigation lights because it had been daylight when that vessel’s captain exited the boat. That created an eerie setting.

Meanwhile, emergency personnel were now on shore monitoring the situation. There was the matter of figuring out how to address the unmanned vessel that was continuing to operate in circles.

Fogleman and Loy reported that the man said the boat was probably going at about 35 miles per hour. By then, it was described as pitch-dark, though a local fire department was tracking the moving vessel with a spotlight.

Representatives of the law enforcement division of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission arrived to help with a plan. It was determined that the best action was to let the vessel run until it was out of fuel. That took an additional 2½ hours.

“We watched from a distance,” Loy said, noting the boat was towed to Oriental. “That was the best outcome of that situation.”

Given that Fogleman and Loy were the only boaters in that area until about two hours passed, the man – who was identified as a doctor from Raleigh who wished to remain anonymous – would have been in grave danger without the young men from Burlington on the scene.

The instincts from Fogleman and Loy, who are described as best friends, kicked in.

“As soon as we went over and saw the situation, we just focused on what needed to be done,” Loy said. “We’re always on the same page.”

Fogleman and Loy made their way back to Sea Gate Marina. They noted that it was all a strange scene Sunday night, particularly with fireworks going off in the distance as part of the New Year’s Eve celebration. By then with all this drama, their duck hunting plans for Monday were nixed, though they met with the man they had rescued to return some items left on Loy’s boat.

Fogleman and Loy were back at their alma mater as spectators for Tuesday night’s basketball games at Williams.

The 2023 Williams graduates were high school football standouts. Fogleman also was a state-meet competitor in track and field. Fogleman, 18, attends Cape Fear Community College (studying boat manufacturing) and Loy, 19, is enrolled at North Carolina State.

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