UPDATED: Sailing Instructors Rescue 8 Children Adrift on Sakonnet River

In a dramatic rescue Tuesday, eight children were saved after their sailboats were blown off course on the Sakonnet River.

In what began as a fun afternoon of sailing turned into a frightening turn of events for the Portsmouth Youth Sailing school Tuesday at . 

Eight children were rescued unharmed after their boats were blown off course by strong winds.

A woman was transported to the hospital for treatment after being in the water for more than an hour. Her medical condition is unknown tonight. 

received a 911 phone call around 5:15 p.m. for "a distressed sailboat." When police and firefighters arrived at Sandy Point Beach, they soon learned it was not one sailboat involved, but six. 

"When we got here, we learned it was a sailing school," said Portsmouth Deputy Fire Chief Michael Cranson. 

Portsmouth Youth Sailing reportedly had six, 10-foot-long sailboats in the Sakonnet River when strong winds blew the boats off course. According to Cranson, the wind speed was 15 mph in a northwest direction at the time. 

The sailboats, with children on board, were blown south along the river. [Updated Wednesday at 3:13 p.m.] Two instructors quickly took action.

In multiple trips, the instructors drove out in a motorboat and brought the children back one by one until all eight were accounted for. The instructors were also able to tow two of the sailboats back to shore. 

Meanwhile, a woman on the beach swam out to the drifting sailboats in an attempt to help. According to reports, the woman is believed to have been in the water for more than an hour.

"She made it back to shore on her own," Cranson said. 

The swimmer was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Her medical condition is unknown. 

During the incident, the woman's dog, Drake, was left on shore. Portsmouth police helped return Drake to his owner later that night. 

Two additional instructors, in a 28-foot sailboat, also went out to tow the remaining four drifting boats back to shore. 

With the help of Portsmouth, Tiverton and Middletown Fire Departments, the Tiverton Harbormaster and U.S. Coast Guard, all four sailboats were recovered. 

Members of Portsmouth Youth Sailing refused to speak about the rescue. "We will not be providing a comment tonight," said one man who appeared to lead the group. 

Portsmouth School Committee member Jonathan Harris was also seen briefly at the rescue site. [Updated Tuesday at 11:23 p.m.] In an e-mail sent late Tuesday, Harris said two of his children were among the group rescued. 

According to Cranson, this is the first rescue at Sandy Point Beach involving the youth sailing school. Portsmouth Youth Sailing is a summer program aimed at teaching the sport of sailing to children, ages 5 to 14. 

outside look June 27, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Quick thinking and training is what lead to a safe return. Weather and accidents can be unforeseen and it can happen to the best of them. I for one enroll my child in these sailing classes and worry at times when I don't see the boats in my view and rely solely on the instructor and the staff to watch over my child. I'm relieved that the PYS staff called in for help immediately to retrieve the boats and didn't wait to ask for help or think they could handle it themselves. Great job to all that helped and for PYS for their continued training in the safety of our children.
East side June 27, 2012 at 04:50 PM
It was to windy last night for these youths to be out sailing. Also, there were to many boats / students to instructors. The town needs to look at this more closely to see what can be done so that this does not happen again.
Dr. Curtis June 27, 2012 at 05:27 PM
My daughters enrolled in this sailing program for three, maybe four years, and every summer there was a problem with one of the motorboats. There should be two working motorboats ready to be deployed at all times. I recall one week, the motorboats weren't working at all. Safety first!
native ways June 27, 2012 at 09:06 PM
i don't know why the boat never went back to get woman i watched for a !/2 or more til she finally started to swim back to shore. when she got to shore i asked if she was ok and if anyone else was with her. i never knew of the sailing school. i was only visiting the beach with my wife. i then carried her back to the beach where her dog was because that was what she kept saying. she was shaking and then past out . i thought she died. i found some chairs where she could rest but she kept passing out . i yelled to my wife to call 911 for ambulance . then started to carry her again where i met up with 2 police officers with her dog. my prayers go out to her and also happy all the children got back to shore.
the1 June 28, 2012 at 01:41 PM
@Native Ways- wow! I am shocked if that is the case, That woman deserves a HUGE thank you from all for being so courageous. (as do you) Sounds like safety measures and protocols need to be revisited for the sailing camp. The water is no joke and accidents can happen way to quickly and easily.


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