By KAREN WELLS
BAYTONA — While 45-50 feet doesn’t seem like much, it was just as well it was 45 or 50 miles as Roy Burt clung to a rock hoping to be rescued.
The 70-year-old Baytona man had headed out on Jan.11 of this year to do some bird hunting in a little jon boat. He set out around 1 p.m. Mr. Burt recalled it being a beautiful day with not a draft of wind. Trouble struck shortly after.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I went to move from one seat to the other. I don’t know if I stumbled or what, but I saw the gunnel of the boat going underwater and it went right bottom up.
“I crawled up on the bottom of the boat. I had a floater jacket on. The water was really cold. I was on the boat I suppose two hours before she broke ashore.”
Mr. Burt figures he was about two miles from shore when his boat tipped over.
“I drifted into the bay,” he recalled. “The wind started to breeze up to the northeast and it came on to snow. I was calling out for help. When I got into shore I got right proud and scrabbled off the boat onto the rock.
“When I did that I realized I couldn’t stand up. I didn’t have any feeling in my feet. I was sat on my legs the whole time on the bottom of the boat.”
He was stranded on the rock. Mr. Burt was close to shore but there was nothing he could do to get himself the remainder of the way. There were no houses for at least a kilometer.
At some point while he was still on the boat Mr. Burt’s calls for help were heard by his wife Audrey. She contacted Bruce Quinlan around 3:30 p.m. Mr. Quinlan, a member of the Baytona Volunteer Fire Department, immediately went down to the shore to see if he could see his fellow firefighter. Through the blowing snow he couldn’t see Mr. Burt, but he could hear his calls, even though he couldn’t hear what he was saying.
“I ran back to house put on warmer clothes and picked up a rope and ax and cell phone and told someone to phone the fire department and get some help for me,” said Mr. Quinlan.
The first two to arrive were Captain Hardy Lewis and Assistant Deputy Chief Gerald Lewis.
“Just before they arrived I think I saw when he landed on the rock,” said Mr. Quinlan. “I can’t say for sure, but I thought I saw something move.”
The three firefighters went to the shore and tried throwing a rope out to Mr. Burt. He couldn’t move enough to get the rope. They knew that to get to him they would need to enter the water themselves.
“Hardy decided he was going to get him,” said Gerald. “I told him to take off his boots and coat so he would have something dry to put on when he came in. We tied the rope on Hardy in case he collapsed and then he jumped in the water.”
Hardy said his only thought at the time was getting to Mr. Burt.