Marine Patrol Officers are constantly on the lookout, even when they’re not on the water. That likely saved the life of a duck hunter in Roanoke Sound yesterday, Jan. 27, when Officer Justin Lott was driving across the Washington Baum Bridge about 3:30 in the afternoon.
Lott was leaving the Manteo Office after a meeting for work with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, and luckily he was pulling his work boat behind him. While crossing the bridge, Lott glanced in the sound and noticed a small skiff drifting with no one aboard. Scanning the surrounding water, he caught a glimpse of a young man in waist-deep water.
“He looked like he was trying to walk to the boat, but the boat kept moving away from him, then he started waving his hands at the bridge. I could tell he was in trouble, so I got on the radio and started heading that way,” said Lott.
As soon as Lott reached the nearest boat ramp, fellow officers Chris Lee and Amos Williams, who had just left the same meeting and heard Lott’s radio message, were there to meet him.
“We jumped in the boat, Lott backed us down, and as soon as the boat hit the water, we took off,” said Lee.
Lee and Williams sped to the man in the water. Wyatt Dewy Tillett, the 18-year-old Manteo hunter, told Lee that he was duck hunting in a blind when he realized his boat had slipped anchor, and he had left the blind in an attempt to get the boat back. By now, 20-mph winds were pushing waves over his waders.
After getting Tillett aboard and retrieving his boat, Lee and Williams went back to the boat ramp. By then, Patrol Officer Alex Frye and Sgt. Odell Williams were on the scene, so they boated out to pick up Tillett’s friends who were still in the duck blind.
Everything turned out fine for the duck hunters, but Tillett would have been in serious trouble in short order if Lott had not spotted him when he did.
“I don’t know what the water temperature was, but it was pretty chilly. Tillett could have gone into hypothermia,” said Lott.