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LCSO Marine and Aviation Units honored with Golden Life Jacket

By Staff | Oct 1, 2019

A Golden Life Jacket Award was recently given by the Sea Tow Foundation to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Marine and Aviation Units for the countless marine rescues they have done throughout Lee County over the years.

Sea Tow Fort Myers owner Heather O’Brien said her guys every year receive awards from the Coast Guard. In one year, she said they pulled 23 people out of the water.

“This year the Sheriff’s Department saved six people in rip currents,” she said. “Let’s do something for these guys. They constantly go above and beyond. They are out there with a positive spirit. You can approach them. They are out there looking out for public safety. If something happens, duty calls. A nasty storm is coming, they are going . . . with all the life saving they have done this year shows it.”

The Golden Jacket Award is presented to an individual, or someone in the boating industry, for safety, as well as for making a difference within their local community.

O’Brien said it is a whole different world out on the water.

“It is nice to shed light on some of the people. Yes, they are first responders, but so much more than that,” she said of Lt. Chris Nyce and Sgt. Tim Galloway. “They are giddy. They are funny. When stuff happens, then ‘boom’ – they switch and they are in their mode. They don’t ever think of themselves.”

The Marine and Aviation Unit performs countless marine rescues for kayakers, paddle boarders and power boards, which is no small task, according to O’Brien, due to Lee County having more than 600 miles of shoreline including the Gulf of Mexico, multiple bays and passes and hundreds of miles of interior canals.

The units also do many outreach programs in the community to promote boating safety by visiting with local schools, community groups, boat clubs and Cub Scout packs.

O’Brien said this is the second time they have presented a Golden Jacket Award. The first was given 10 years ago to Justin McBride, who built a program to remove abandoned boats in Lee County. He now works for the state.

Once a month, such agencies as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Cape Coral Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department Marine and Aviation Unit, area fire departments, Sea Tow and Coast Guard come together for meetings.

O’Brien said having these meetings allows the agencies to communicate and talk about what is going on, which is beneficial when an emergency takes place.

“We are all on the same page. The communication is better, the resources are better,” she explained, adding that they are all a cell phone, or radio call, away.