Yacht deckhand who rescued personal watercraft rider in Caribbean speaks out

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A yacht deckhand from South Florida said he did not hesitate when he came to the rescue of a man who fell into the sea after the victim’s personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Caribbean.

West Palm Beach resident Ryan Rivenburgh said he made a split-second decision when the crash took place in St. Barts back in December.

“Looked up right at it, just watched it happen,” he said. “Took my phone out, threw the hat off, then dove down in the water.”

Rivenburgh, a deckhand on board the 157-foot yacht Rebel saw a boat violently collide with a man on a personal watercraft.

The deckhand said he jumped off the docked yacht onto a watercraft of his own and then sped over to help the man.

“He had a large gash on his forehead,” said Rivenburgh. “He was bleeding a good bit out of that, bleeding and unconscious but alive.”

The victim, Mike Higbee, shared what he could recall from the ordeal.

“I don’t remember the attacks, but I do remember having a sickening feeling of, like, ‘This is happening,'” he said.

Higbee, a musician, said he suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision.

“Six fractured vertebrae, mostly in the neck region, and a 10-centimeter gash, which, um, yeah, it’s there,” said Higbee while pointing to his scar.

Rivenburgh, with the help of the man who had just hit Mike, pulled Higbee out of the water and rushed him to shore.

“A couple people I remember seeing had thought that we were fishing out a non-living person,” said Rivenburgh.

“I said, ‘Please tell my wife and kids I love them,'” said Higbee.

He was able to get to tell them himself, and on Friday, Higbee and Rivenburgh spoke for the first time since the accident.

“I guess there were so many names I couldn’t remember, but can I see your face again?” said Higbee. “It’s not every time you can actually say, ‘Thank you,’ to, you know, people who literally save your life.”

“Don’t ever shy away from someone who needs help and don’t hesitate to ask for others to come help,” said Rivenburgh.

Doctors said Higbee has several months of intense recovery ahead of him.

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