Boater rescued from Lake Mohave talks in Vegas of lessons learned
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Wind-driven waves were tossing Greag “Butch” Meriwether’s 20-foot boat when the 56-year-old former Marine made two observations.
“I’m having a heart attack,” he told friend Ed Halley. “I don’t think I’m going to smoke anymore.”
The light comment came moments before a perilous rescue on Lake Mohave that left Meriwether and his passengers safe, and Meriwether, of Golden Valley, Ariz., recovering this week from quadruple bypass surgery in Las Vegas.
According to passengers and witnesses to the July 23 drama, reported Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the boat heaved in the churning lake, then sank.
Clark County firefighter Glen Green, 41, and a couple camped nearby at Six Mile Cove east of Searchlight noticed trouble.
With winds whipping to 60 mph and waves cresting at 5 feet, they realized on shore that they couldn’t see Meriwether’s boat.
Meriwether was bobbing in the water with Ed Halley, 60, and Elaine Halley, 56.
The female camper, whom park rangers have not been able to identify, headed out on a personal watercraft and came back with Elaine Halley.
The man, also not identified, went out on his boat and returned with Meriwether and Ed Halley.
On shore, Meriwether collapsed between delirium and consciousness.
“I had an out-of-body experience,” Meriwether said in an interview before he was released from Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Green swam to an anchored boat to radio park rangers for help and summon a medical helicopter.
“If it had been another 10 minutes, he would have died right there,” Green said. “I thought he was going to meet his maker.”
Park Ranger Tom McDermott arrived, along with Green’s friend J Rupel, another Clark County firefighter. They began administering oxygen and intravenous fluids to Meriwether — and gave him nitroglycerin three times to open his coronary arteries and relieve his pain.
“I wish I could have two people like that with me all the time,” McDermott said of Green and Rupel.
Meriwether’s heart stopped three times before the helicopter got him to the hospital, where doctors performed open heart surgery, using veins from his right leg to repair his damaged heart.
“I’m doing pretty good considering I had quadruple surgery and died a couple of times,” Meriwether said.
On Wednesday, he spoke by telephone with Green to thank him for his help.
“You were in pretty rough shape, buddy,” Green replied.
Ed Halley said the near-death experience has made Meriwether an even closer friend.
Just before the boat went down, Elaine Halley hurt her back when a wave hit and she lost her balance.
When the engine died and the boat began to tip, Meriwether put her in a life jacket, tossed one to her husband and swept her off the boat, saving her from being sucked into the vortex of the sinking boat.
Ed Halley was dragged down as the boat sank, but was able to surface moments later clutching a floating seat.
“Greag is yelling at me, ‘Where the hell is your vest?’ ” Halley recalled. “I could see he was having a heart attack. … I’m telling him, ‘You were a 20-year Marine. You will suck it up.’ I didn’t want to drag his dead ass to the shore.”
Meriwether retrieved the life jacket for Ed Halley. The three bobbed in the rough waters about 10 minutes before help arrived.
Meriwether helped push Elaine Halley onto the personal watercraft and waited with Ed Halley for several minutes for the boat to arrive to carry them to shore.
“The Marines do not leave their wounded and dead behind,” Meriwether said. “I would not have been able to live with myself if one of them had died while someone was trying to save me.”
He was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, and Ed Halley drove him home.
“You need to have a healthy respect for life,” Meriwether said. “Even though I smoked a couple packs a day, in my oblivious mind I thought everything was perfect.
“You have to respect what you have and also respect each minute.”