John Franklin Riggs Swims 5 Hours To Save Family After Boat Capsized Near Maryland's Deal Island

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A Maryland man swam for five hours to get help for his family, including two children, after their boat foundered in a storm off Deal Island.

John Franklin Riggs, 46, swam five miles over three hours, climbing rocks along the shoreline to reach a nearby house and get help for his family, Fox News reports. Angela Byrd, a nearby resident, was awakened by her dog’s barking. When she went to her front door on Wednesday, she spotted Riggs, soaking wet and barefoot.

“He came to the right house,” Byrd told the Daily Times. “He said, ‘I’ve been swimming since sundown; I need help.’”

Byrd immediately called 911, allowing authorities to rescue the Riggs family from their 16-foot capsized boat, Fox News reports. Rescuers were able to distribute life jackets, saving the sailors from drowning.

"It wasn't an option, it just had to be done because they had been out there all night," Riggs told WBOC about his decision to swim for five hours. He added that the lives of his family, including his father, sister, niece, and nephew, depended on his efforts.

"Just not knowing what's going on with them while I was gone. It was getting nasty and blowing harder. And not knowing if we would be able to find them when we got back out there," Riggs told WBOC.

According to Deal Island Fire Chief Donald Ford, Riggs dealt with “some of the worst tides in the Chesapeake Bay” during his five-hour swim. “It’s an amazing story,” Ford told WBOC. “The man’s a hero.”

The man's sister, Contessa Riggs, said that the family clung to the wreckage of their boat during Riggs' five-hour swim. “I’ve never been so happy to see search boats in my life,” she said. “It took him five hours to swim ashore … We clinged to the side of the boat and got stung by sea nettles in the dark.”

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