Rehoboth Beach – The Coast Guard is known for performing rescues at sea. It’s not every day, however, Coast Guardsmen find themselves plucking 500-pound lifeguard stands from the water and transferring them ashore.
When the Rehoboth Beach Patrol in Delaware realized seven of their lifeguard stands were missing Thursday, they were puzzled. It was unclear at first what happened to the stands, which cost about $900 each.
According to Capt. Kent Buckson, a 28-year veteran of the Rehoboth Beach Patrol, it took about two days to confirm the lifeguard stands were taken out to sea.
“I was extremely frustrated, then I was angry,” said Buckson. “We didn’t know at first how many backup chairs we had. Coincidentally, seven were stolen and we had seven left at the impound, so within a couple of hours we were able to have the backup chairs on the beach so the guards could perform their duties.”
Bucks said he received a lot of assistance from other agencies, including the Delaware and Maryland state police aviation units.
“There’s been a lot of help from a lot of different agencies, but the Coast Guard has been instrumental with tracking these lifeguard chairs and going out and retrieving them,” said Buckson.
He also said the Ocean City Beach Patrol in Maryland has been very supportive.
“I’m thankful no one has been injured,” said Buckson. “I’m hopeful the police will find those responsible.”
Four of the seven chairs were recovered by Monday. One washed up on a private beach in Delaware’s Cotton Patch community, a second was located by a fisherman and towed to the West Ocean City Fishing Center in Maryland, a third was brought ashore by a boat crew from Coast Guard Station Ocean City, and a fourth was brought ashore by a boat crew from Coast Guard Station Indian River Inlet, Delaware.
“It’s not something we see every day,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Collin Snovell, a boatswain’s mate at Station Indian River Inlet. “It was a challenge once we got alongside the chair and realized how big it actually was.”
Snovell said he and his fellow crewmembers considered towing the lifeguard stand, but ultimately agreed that would’ve created too much drag. They used a 24-foot boat, which has a beam, or width, of 8 feet 6 inches and the lifeguard stand still hung over each side once it was aboard.
“It was a challenge getting it on the boat, but once we did, we felt comfortable bringing it in,” said Snovell.
With regard to the remaining three missing lifeguard stands, Buckson and Snovell share the same concern – hazard to navigation.
“When people do stuff like this — putting those chairs in the water — not only is it unfair to the people who volunteer their time to pull people out of the water, but it’s a serious hazard to navigation,” said Snovell. “Something that big and that heavy, if you hit that in a fiberglass boat, it could really mess your day up.”
The boating public in Delaware and Maryland are asked to contact the Coast Guard via VHF Channel 16 if they spot anything suspicious on the water.