Man Swims 5 Hours: John Franklin Riggs Saves Family After Boat Capsizes
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John Franklin Riggs, 46, swam for miles, leaving his sister Contessa Riggs, 43, father John Riggs, 70, Contessa's 3-year-old son, and a 9-year-old niece at the mercy of stinging jellyfish. After swimming for 5 hours, John Franklin Riggs reached a rocky shore, climbing the rocks in total darkness to get help.
Once ashore, Riggs ran up to the first house he saw.
"He came to the right house," said Angela Byrd, who was awoken by her dog barking at 1:00 A.M. "He said, 'I've been swimming since sundown; I need help.'"
Byrd called the Fire Chief Donald Ford, of Deal Island, and 911. Firefighter volunteers then took a rescue boat with Riggs back to his family.
"There were a few storms in the area, and the boat turned upside down," said Sergeant Brian Albert of the Maryland Natural Resources Police. "Mr. Riggs swam to shore. These people are very lucky. No one was injured."
A police helicopter shined a light on the capsized fishing boat, and along with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard and firefighters from three towns, the Riggs party was rescued. Aside from some cuts and jellyfish stings, they were unharmed.
"It is lucky they put life jackets on," Albert said. "The life jackets are what saved their lives."
Emily, Riggs's 9-year-old niece, said her uncle was "a real hero" and that she'd only go fishing with her family again "if the water is really shallow."
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