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'It’s a miracle I am here:' Fisherman found clinging to buoy meets his rescuers

Kitsap Sun (Bremerton) logo Kitsap Sun (Bremerton) 11/5/2019 Andrew Binion, Kitsap Sun
a man looking at a phone: David Sigo (right) places a beaded necklace made by his wife Jaya over North Kitsap Fire and Rescue's Sam Strausz's head as a thank you for being part of the crew aboard Marine 81 that rescued him after he fell from his fishing vessel on October 23. Jaya Sigo made necklaces for the entire NKFR crew that helped rescue her husband that day, as well as for Carl Wodenscheck and Chad Waag who heard his calls for help and helped rescue crews find him. © Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun David Sigo (right) places a beaded necklace made by his wife Jaya over North Kitsap Fire and Rescue's Sam Strausz's head as a thank you for being part of the crew aboard Marine 81 that rescued him after he fell from his fishing vessel on October 23. Jaya Sigo made necklaces for the entire NKFR crew that helped rescue her husband that day, as well as for Carl Wodenscheck and Chad Waag who heard his calls for help and helped rescue crews find him.

KINGSTON — When David Sigo was dragged off his fishing boat last month and spent an hour in the cold Puget Sound before being rescued, one thought was going through his mind: “Survival.”

The 63-year-old from Suquamish didn’t panic — though he did admit to yelling at his boat in anger right after he landed in the water — and he took steps to increase his chances of getting home alive: saving his voice until a helicopter overhead passed, directing his calls for help toward the shore along with the direction of the wind, bear-hugging a buoy with all his might. 

“I wasn’t sure anybody would hear me, but I never gave up on my voice and my will to live,” David said. 

On Monday, David and his family met with the people who on the afternoon of Oct. 23 heard his voice and called 911, along with the firefighters who found him off the shore of Kingston clinging to the buoy with his 37-foot boat, Azarel, nowhere in sight. 

“It takes a team and you guys are definitely part of that team,” North Kitsap Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Mike Mock told those who called 911 and assisted firefighters in the rescue. 

David said he works with another fisherman; but David has two boats and he and the other man each took one, something he admits is not a good idea. As he was spreading 1,800 feet of gill net a rope snatched his ankle and the next second he was overboard near a buoy. 

Getting tossed into the water was just the beginning of the ordeal. The rope that had coiled around his foot released him, but the propeller on his unmanned boat was still turning. He stood on a net line, most of his body out of the water, watching the boat, concerned about what might happen next.

“It could have dragged me to Seattle,” he said. 

The line he was standing on snapped, though, and the boat started motoring in circles until it was out of sight. David again found himself alone in the water next to the buoy. 

So he wrapped his arms around it and held on for dear life. 

“There was no way I was going to let loose of that buoy,” David said.

He started yelling. 

a man wearing a hat: David Sigo talks about the chain of events on Oct. 23 when he was swept off his boat after getting tangled in a net. © Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun David Sigo talks about the chain of events on Oct. 23 when he was swept off his boat after getting tangled in a net.

At about 2 p.m., Carl and Sherry Wodenscheck were working, trimming plants on top of a bluff near Jefferson Point on top of a ladder, when they heard a man calling “Help!”

“It was loud and clear,” Carl said, estimating David was a quarter- to a half-mile from shore.

The calls for help were unmistakable. 

“We knew,” Sherry said. 

Before they heard the calls for help, though, they heard something else. Sherry said it sounded angry. 

“It probably sounded like somebody fighting out there,” David said of his own yelling at his boat. The couple called 911, which connected to dispatchers in Snohomish County, who then patched them through to dispatchers in Kitsap County. 

Chad Waag — a Kitsap Public Utility District worker in the area — heard a sound, but he couldn’t tell what was making it, and it got louder and quieter as he walked around. 

“It sounded like a cat, it was so faint,” Waag said. He was about to call 911 when he saw Mock. 

Mock searched with binoculars, looking for the source of the sound. “It was kind of like a needle in a haystack,” he said.

He saw an object near the buoy that didn't look like seaweed or driftwood and firefighters launched their rescue boat and pulled David out of the water, with Waag keeping an eye on David from the shore. The first story in the Kitsap Sun on David’s rescue, from Oct. 23, incorrectly reported that a PUD worker had called 911.

David’s boat was later recovered, along with his net. 

Remarkably, it wasn’t the first time David found himself in saltwater fighting against the creep of hypothermia. 

While fishing off Bremerton 38 years ago in 18-degree weather at about 2 a.m. his boat flipped, casting him overboard. He said through the night, for as long as four hours, he held onto the bottom of the overturned boat, moving constantly, until an 86-year-old man spied him at dawn and rowed out to save him. 

“I thought I was going to meet my maker on that one,” David said.

Despite the close call last month, David said six days later he went back out on his boat.

“I had to climb back into the saddle,” he said. 

Jaya Sigo, David’s wife, said David carries a whistle on him now and noted the name of his boat, Azarel, means “God helps” in Hebrew.

“It’s a miracle I am here,” David said. “I didn’t give up. I really owe you guys my life. Thank you for not giving up on me.”

“Not a chance,” Carl said.

a couple of people that are talking to each other: David Sigo, center, is flanked by Carl Wodenscheck, left, and Chad Waag, right, as they pose for photos for family members at North Kitsap Fire and Rescue in Kingston on Monday. Both Wodenscheck and Waag helped NKFR locate Sigo after he was tangled in his fishing net and swept overboard on Oct. 23. © Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun David Sigo, center, is flanked by Carl Wodenscheck, left, and Chad Waag, right, as they pose for photos for family members at North Kitsap Fire and Rescue in Kingston on Monday. Both Wodenscheck and Waag helped NKFR locate Sigo after he was tangled in his fishing net and swept overboard on Oct. 23.

This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: 'It’s a miracle I am here:' Fisherman found clinging to buoy meets his rescuers

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