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Heroic Mass. officer rescues 5 people, including baby, after boat capsizes

Officer Matthew Bodwell, an experienced mariner and an assistant harbormaster, was credited with saving five lives


Ipswich Police Department, Twitter

By Rick Sobey
Boston Herald

BOSTON — A “heroic” police officer is being hailed for his quick thinking actions while out on the water Saturday afternoon when he rescued five people after their boat capsized amid rough seas.

Ipswich patrol officer Matthew Bodwell — an experienced mariner whose role in the police department includes assistant harbormaster duties — is credited for saving the five people, including a baby and a pregnant woman.

While on patrol on the water near the Clark Beach mooring area, Bodwell was alerted over the marine radio for a “mayday” message: A vessel had capsized in the mooring field, and people were in the water in distress.

Bodwell activated his blue lights and directed the patrol boat toward the mooring field, where he saw a man in the water waving an arm for help.

The officer was first able to pull a pregnant woman from the water, followed by a second woman, then a 14-month-old girl, and lastly two men.

Bodwell evaluated all five people and learned that the group — two couples and the boat owners’ child — had fallen into the water after their 16-foot aluminum boat capsized. No one was missing. All of the adults are believed to be in their 30s.

The officer radioed Ipswich dispatch and the U.S. Coast Guard to confirm all parties were out of the water. Action Ambulance was dispatched to the Ipswich Bay Yacht Club dock, and it was waiting when the police boat arrived.

Paramedics evaluated all five people, and after they were medically cleared, Bodwell drove them back to the boat owners’ residence nearby. Bodwell later returned to the mooring field, and towed the capsized vessel to Pavilion Beach where the owner retrieved it.

“This is a remarkable situation that could have turned into an unspeakable tragedy had it not been for the immediate actions of Officer Matthew Bodwell,” Ipswich Police Chief Paul Nikas said. “Officer Bodwell is to be commended for his heroic work on the water on Saturday.”

Added Ipswich Police Lt. Jonathan Hubbard, the town’s Emergency Management Director: “Fortunately, in this incident, we were able to respond quickly enough with a highly-trained marine patrol officer, and we have a positive outcome, when all too often the circumstances on the water, especially in rough seas, do not turn out favorably.”

None of the boaters were wearing life jackets. The police chief reminded all boaters that Coast Guard-approved flotation devices are mandatory for all boaters under age 12, and are recommended for all.

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