By Jon Persson
Keith Mutch is clearly not a man in search of a stage, nor is he at ease at the center of attention. But on May 4 his recognition of a developing crisis set in motion the series of actions that resulted in a young girl’s adventure being a lesson in life and not a tragic story.
At a session of the New London City Council on May 19th, Keith relates how he watched as a 12 year old girl and her dog were being buffeted by waves off the mouth of the Thames River. He notes that he was concerned while waves were breaking over the small boat’s rails. Next, he watched the canoe capsize, casting the girl and her dog into the cold waters. Unable to contact 911, Keith used his handheld radio to contact the Coast Guard for assistance.
In recognition of his actions and the decisive actions of the crew of Cross Sound Ferry’s John H and the United States Coast Guard, State Representative Ernest Hewett sponsored a proclamation by the State Legislature, joined by proclamations and citations from Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy and New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio. Mayor Finizio begins the evening’s ceremonial presentations, declaring the recipients, “Heroes of the City of New London.” Representative Hewett is next, presenting blue bound citations from, first, the Legislature, and then the Governor.
Keith Mutch is first to receive his awards, and is asked to describe his actions on that fortunate day. He is quick to say that, “Without the crew of the John H, the girl would have drowned.”
The crew of the John H takes center stage, where their actions are described as maneuvering close enough to throw a life ring to the young girl, keeping her safely secure until the Coast Guard could arrive.
Next, the Coast Guardsmen are recognized. Commander Jonathan Theel comments on the daily practice and the teamwork present which resulted in a successful rescue, and “not a grieving family” had things not unfolded as they did. He then gives out Coast Guard coins to the crew of the John H, and to Keith Mutch, a traditional commendation transferred by a handshake between presenter and recipient.
The events and responses on May 4 by people aware and prepared to act resulted in the best of outcomes–A young girl treated and released from the hospital, to live with more wisdom and a dog found after making the long swim to shore.