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Raging surf pitched boat upside down

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The scene of a boating accident last Saturday, that ultimately resulted in one death, was a case of both unsung heroes and professional blunders, according to witnesses.

The incident began when Marion "Marc" Carlton and his friend Charles "Tom" Cormany went to check on some crab pots Saturday morning near South Beach in Carlton's aluminum motor boat. Carlton said he and Cormany had trouble locating the pots in the increasingly choppy waters.

"We had been out fishing by White Rock earlier and when we went to look for them we couldn't find them right away," said Carlton. "We finally saw them in the distance. They were all in white water, it was very rough. We both said at the same time, ‘we're not going to get them right now.'"

It was then that a rogue wave capsized the boat – tossing the two men into the water. Carlton said his boat was well outside the surf when the wave hit.

"We'd just turned to leave when that great big swell hit us," said Carlton. "I didn't see it from where I was at. He (Cormany) saw it coming, I think, because he said ‘Oh my God,' or something like that."

Carlton said all he saw was the boat overturned in the air above his head before the swell covered them both.

On the shore, Emery Mattz and Rocky Snider were digging for clams when Mattz caught a glimpse of the boat as it began drifting toward shore.

"We saw the boat where the waves were, being tossed around and coming up out of the breakers," said Mattz. "I said ‘Hey, there's a boat out there.'" Snider then called 911 on his cellular phone.

Carlton said he and Cormany, both of whom were wearing life jackets, swam to the boat which was about 50 yards away.

"I said ‘Tom, we've got to get to the boat.' He got to it first and got on top of it. I just hung onto the bow because I thought it would flip over if I got on too," said Carlton.

As the waves slowly pushed the boat toward shore, Cormany slid down into the water and was hanging onto the edge of the boat.

"I don't know how long we were in the water," said Carlton. "I called his name a couple times and he'd say ‘yeah.' I got to the point where I could touch the bottom – about chin deep. I told him I felt the bottom."

Cormany acknowledged, according to Carlton. That was the last time they spoke.

Meanwhile, Mattz and Snider said time seemed to be ticking by slowly while they waited for emergency personnel to arrive. It was then they flagged down Stan Brandenburg, a surfer from Cuttin, Calif. who was driving by. Snider said Brandenburg didn't hesitate to go in after the two men.

"He's the guy that deserves recognition," said Snider. "Here's a Joe Blow citizen who risked his life by going out there and grabbing these guys."

Carlton said he and Cormany were extremely cold and tired by the time Brandenburg arrived.

"All the time we were getting hammered – I mean big time," Carlton said of the waves. "We got in to where it was about shoulder deep and this surfer showed up and shoved his board at me. I told him not to worry about me but to help Tom."

Snider said this is when the second accident happened.

"He got hit in the head by the boat just before the surfer got to him," Snider said of Cormany. "He went face down in the water and started rolling around."

Mattz said Brandenburg managed to pull the unconscious Cormany to shore; Carlton was able to use the surfboard to help him get to where Mattz and Snider could help him in.

"He was still hanging onto the surfboard," Mattz said of Carlton. "He was really weak and suffering from hypothermia."

"I was so weak I could barely stand up. I could hardly talk because my teeth were chattering so bad," said Carlton.

Sometime while this was happening, Mattz and Snider said a park ranger showed up.

"He sat in his vehicle and talked on the phone," said Mattz.

"He was no help at all," said Snider. "He finally pulled out his gear and a wave hit it and it scattered all over the place."

The U.S. Coast Guard arrived next, and Mattz and Snider said they still didn't see enough action from the professionals.

"We're the ones that gave him (Cormany) CPR," said Snider. "This guy took out the mask for it and put it on himself instead of on the patient. I'm screaming, ‘Hey, the mask doesn't go that way!'"

Lt. Justin Kimura said his emergency medical technician was not capable of making such an error.

"He (the technician) said he provided the safety mask to the person who was giving CPR," said Kimura. "Our personnel are trained technicians. They wouldn't make a mistake like that."

The mask in question is a safety device, according to Kimura, which goes between the patient and medical personnel. There is a one-way air nozzle attached that is only useful if the mask is placed on the patient.

When asked who the mask was given to, Kimura said it was the ranger.

Attempts to revive Cormany were fruitless and he was later pronounced dead at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Carlton, who was still visibly shaken yesterday after the loss of his friend, did not make distinctions between the people who assisted him in the water and on shore.

"The people who were there were really great," said Carlton. "I didn't get all their names but I want to thank them all."

Carlton said when he filled out the accident report at the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department, one question troubled him.

"The question asked how this accident could have been averted," Carlton said. "The only thing I could think to say was ‘not be there.'"

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