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PWC driver hospitalized after being hit by boat in St. Barts

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By Dorie Cox

A man was seriously injured when the personal watercraft he was driving was hit by a boat in St. Barts on Dec. 30. Musician, writer and composer Mike Higbee and his family were on vacation in a villa and he was on a rented PWC when the accident occurred.

The incident in Gustavia Harbor was recorded on closed-circuit TV from the stern of M/Y Rebel and posted on YouTube the next day.
Crew from M/Y Rebel were first to respond, according to Engr. Joel Antoinette. A Rebel deckhand used the yacht’s PWC to head to the scene of the crash and was the first person to reach Higbee, who was face down in the water. The deckhand jumped in the water, flipped over the injured man, and swam him to a nearby tender, which had a low transom, where he was loaded onboard for transport to shore.

The captain on Rebel made a Mayday call, which also alerted the crew on Rising Sun, who joined in the rescue, according to Antoinette. The local Port Authority arranged for medical help on shore where the man was transported to a St. Barts hospital. About four days later, he was medically evacuated to NYU hospital.  

As of mid-January, Higbee was recovering at home from surgery for multiple injuries including six fractured vertebrae and head lacerations.

Higbee does not remember the accident but is grateful for the quick actions of yacht crew and other responders. He said he came to consciousness with several people holding him and putting pressure on his injuries. He “woke to blue sky hitting the faces of people trying to help me out and telling me to hold on.”

He remembered feeling afraid he would have a heart attack due to a pressure in his chest.

“The level of competence that I woke up to after being out cold for 2 minutes was so reassuring and comforting,” Higbee said by phone to The Triton. “I felt like I was in the best hands from the get-go. Just the fact that so many awesome people showed up in a minute.”

Capt. David Krokoski, who was in the area at the time, commented on social media that the traffic in the harbor was high and it appeared many were exceeding speed limits.

“We were just pulling into the anchorage when we got the Mayday from Rebel,” he wrote in an email to The Triton. “It is noted that it is a 5-knot speed zone in the anchorage and harbor. Slow down for safety.”

As he recovered at home, Higbee said the responders who helped him on the scene and immediately after the incident saved his life. They were “on the same page” as they stabilized and treated him for shock, he said.

“Everyone was way more qualified than I could wish for,” Higbee said. “I felt like I was part of the military with special forces. I couldn’t be surrounded by better crew. They made me feel like my life was not over.” 

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.

ORIGINAL POST: Jan. 7, 2020

A man was seriously injured when the personal watercraft he was driving was hit by a boat in St. Barts on Dec. 30. He is recovering in a hospital in New York.

The incident in Gustavia Harbor was recorded on closed-circuit TV from the stern of M/Y Rebel and posted on YouTube the next day.

Crew from M/Y Rebel were first to respond, according to Engr. Joel Antoinette. A Rebel deckhand used the yacht’s PWC to head to the scene of the crash and was the first person to reach the injured man, who was face down in the water. He jumped in the water, flipped over the injured man, and swam him to a nearby tender, which had a low transom, where he was loaded onboard for transport to shore.

A photograph of the scene after a boat driver hit a man on a personal watercraft in St. Barts on Dec. 30. M/Y Rising Sun is the large yacht. The larger, dark-colored tender, left, was used to transport the injured man to shore for medical help. The boat with three outboards, at right, hit the PWC, according to witnesses. Photo provided.

The captain on Rebel made a Mayday call, which also alerted the crew on Rising Sun who joined in the rescue, according to Antoinette. The local Port Authority arranged for medical help on shore and at some point the man was airlifted to New York for treatment.

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.

About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

View all posts by Dorie Cox →

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