Off-Duty Sergeant Rescues Boaters Trapped Under Water

By  //  October 23, 2012

Boat Hits Dock, Capsizes

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – On a typical Fall afternoon, the last thing Brevard County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Robert Vitaliano thought he would be doing as he was getting ready to attend a friend’s wedding, was assisting in the rescue of six boaters who were trapped underneath a capsized boat.

Brevard County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Robert Vitaliano helped rescue boaters trapped beneath the water Friday when their craft smashed into a dock and capsized, (Image courtesy Brevard County Sheriff’s Department)

As Sgt. Vitaliano was mingling out in front of the Front Street Park Pavilion in Melbourne with other wedding guests Friday afternoon, he heard a loud crash come from the dock area where a 24-foot vessel had just collided with the dock and capsized.

Apparently, the vessel lost control, crashed into the dock, and threw its passengers into the chilly waters.

Off-duty Sgt. Vitaliano and several other guests immediately jumped into the water and started pulling the elderly passengers ashore.

It was then when Sgt. Vitaliano realized there were other passengers who were trapped underneath the hull of the capsized vessel.

He quickly developed a plan to lift one side of the vessel in order to free the passengers who were trapped underneath the water.

Through a collaborative effort, all six of the passengers were safely rescued and brought ashore.

Sheriff Jack Parker

“It was an instinctive reaction to a situation that a law enforcement officer is trained to deal with, regardless when it happens,” Vitaliano said.

He also praised the other rescuers for putting their lives at risk to save others.

Sgt. Vitaliano’s heroism did not escape the attention of Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker.

“It’s situations like this that make me proud to serve in a community where our law enforcement officers and citizens put the needs of others first and save lives,” Parker said. “This event could have ended tragically if not for the quick actions of Rob and the citizens who came to the rescue.”