Video | Ferry crew recognized for rescue efforts

Officials with the Washington State Ferries and Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound recently recognized crew members of the Walla Walla following a successful rescue in August.

On Monday, Dec. 3, Second Mate James Patheal and Able-Bodied Seaman Donna Phillips were given the Washington State Ferries’ Life Ring Award and a certificate of merit from the United States Coast Guard for their efforts in rescuing a man who had become fatigued after trying to swim across Sinclair Inlet.

“It means a lot,” Patheal said, adding that the rescue was a group effort. “We’re all out here doing our jobs and any one of these guys could’ve been in that boat, it just so happened that I was the closest.”

Recalling the Aug. 16 rescue, Patheal said Ordinary Seaman Deborah Sabatini was the first one to spot the man in the water.

“He was swimming in his street clothes. He jumped off the Bremerton Marina pier and he was trying to swim to Port Orchard,” Patheal said. “About halfway across, he wore himself out … He was right in the middle of traffic.”

Patheal made a point of recognizing Sabatini — who has since passed away — for her swift action in reporting the man in the water.

“She was the first one to bring it up to us, she reported to me, I reported to the captain,” Patheal said. “Without her, it could’ve been a different story.”

Like Patheal, Phillips maintained that the rescue was a group effort.

“I feel thankful and humbled,” Phillips said. “When we do a rescue, we all do it together, so I think this belongs to the whole crew.”

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at