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Meet the celebrated ferry crew behind the Halifax Harbour rescue

Halifax ferry crew recognized for helping rescue fallen passenger
WATCH: Just days after a dramatic rescue in Halifax Harbour, the crew on the Vincent Coleman ferry are being recognized for the quick action. Alicia Draus has more.

On Wednesday afternoon a passenger aboard the Vincent Coleman ferry heading to Alderney Landing went overboard. The five-person crew immediately jumped right into action to rescue the man in the water.

READ MORE: 31-year-old man rescued by Halifax Transit Ferry crew after going overboard

Ferry deckhand Blake Nugent was the first crew member to be alerted when a passenger came down from the top of the ferry saying that someone fell overboard.

“I jumped into action and told the captain there’s a man overboard.”

Captain Gus Milacet says everybody immediately went into response mode. His own role was to turn the ferry around and maneuver it to get close enough to the man in the water without getting too close and injuring him.

“There’s a little bit of adrenaline that kicks in at that moment, and all we think about is getting this poor guy out of the water as soon as possible,” he said.

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From there, first mate Serge Zelako, ferry engineer Eduard Tabityan, and Nugent all worked to get the rescue net in the water. It’s something they’ve practiced dozens of times, as man overboard drills are organized on a monthly basis.

B.C. ferry rescues sinking boater
B.C. ferry rescues sinking boater

For one crew member on board, the ferry emergency was a brand new experience.

Jenny Rowlands is training as a relief deckhand and Wednesday was her very first day on the job. A rescue wasn’t something she was expecting, but she says she was ready.

Jenny Rowlands was on her first day of training for relief deckhand when a passenger went overboard.
Jenny Rowlands was on her first day of training for relief deckhand when a passenger went overboard. Alicia Draus / Global News
“I do have a first responder background so [I’m] kind of prepared for events like this,” Rowlands said.

“So I just thought, you know what? I’m going to watch what they do and follow suit and if they need me to haul a line, if they need me to get in the water, whatever they need I’ll do that.”

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Rowlands didn’t have to get into the water but her colleague Tabityan did end up jumping in after several attempts to get the man into the net failed.

“I could see the man was in shock,” said Tabityan.

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With everyone working together, and with the help of some passengers on board they were able to get the man out of the water and back on the ferry. He was assessed by a medical team at Alderney Landing and was found to have no significant injuries.

All aboard the Halifax Transit Ferry Service
All aboard the Halifax Transit Ferry Service

The circumstances around how the man ended up in the water are under investigation but in a release, police say that alcohol is believed to have been a factor.

While this was the first rescue for all the crew members on board, including the captain who has been in the business for almost four decades, this was not the first time someone has gone overboard on a ferry. According to the municipality, there have been eight successful rescues over the past 30 years or so.

“It’s great to see their training came into play really quickly,” said the Director of Halifax Transit Dave Reage.

“They worked together as a team and they were able to bring the person out of the water before any serious harm came to them,” he said.

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Reage met with all five crew members on Friday to personally thank them for their action and to present them with a letter of appreciation.