ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - The Atlantic Highlands First Aid Squad's Marine Rescue Unit recently rushed through the dark to the aid of a boat smashed against the break wall in the borough's harbor.

The incident unfolded just hours after the squad's crew readied the rescue vessel for the upcoming season.

"We invest heavily in our water rescue program, said captain Jerry Pandolfo. "Our members train year round for this type of event."

The call came at approximately 11 pm April 12 for the AHFAS to assist the Coast Guard should medical help be needed for the three men stranded on the powerless watercraft. When AHFAS members responded to the harbor, they could see the men, one of whom had gotten out of the boat and was standing on the rock wall while trying to steady the vessel being bounced by rough waters.

The AHFAS rescue boat was launched and reached the men in a matter of moments.

"The men all had undersized life vests, which they were not wearing when we arrived on the scene," Pandolfo said. "If the weather or conditions were bad, this could have been a tragic situation."

Once AHFAS members on board assessed there were no immediate life threats to the men, they stood by until the Coast Guard arrived.

"This incident ended safely, though it is a good reminder as this boating season begins for everyone to make sure they have the proper life vests on board and are wearing them," Pandolfo said. "Just holding onto undersized vests won't help in a true emergency."

The AHFAS is an all-volunteer organization that operates on donations from the community to provide around-the-clock emergency medical services to area residents.

Pandolfo praised member, engineer, Ray Stoever, 2nd Lt. Andrew Crawford, president, Lou Marotta and Tom Hayden who put the AHFAS rescue boat in the water that day, only hours before the first water emergency developed."Success starts with preparation," Pandolfo said. "And, thanks to the hard work of our members, we were prepared to respond to this situation."

For information about the AHFAS call the squad's non-emergency number (732) 291-8118 or log onto www.ahfirstaid.org.

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