Stricken by a storm

4 charged after drugs, weapons found during traffic stop
July 10, 2018
Preservation should be prioritized
July 11, 2018
4 charged after drugs, weapons found during traffic stop
July 10, 2018
Preservation should be prioritized
July 11, 2018

It is an easy thing to be complacent about the dangers weather can bring short of a named storm in our corner of the world.

We are not Alaska, and the perils are not always so apparent.

But when nature turns it can be with a vengeance, and that is what happened Sunday morning when Dereck Celestin set out in his skiff, Little Dukie Boy, headed for an area where shrimp can still be fished now that the spring season has come to an end.

With him was his companion, Cher Fowler, and three children ages 12, 15 and 16.

A series of random squalls had strafed the marshes of Terrebonne Parish, but there were no indications of especially severe weather.

Somebody forgot to tell the weather that.

In the pre-dawn darkness Dereck was guiding the 21-foot skiff with its big skimmer frames in the vicinity of Bayou Grand Caillou and the Houma Navigational Canal, when disaster struck.

Evil waves came seemingly from nowhere and overwhelmed the boat, attacking from the sides and the stern, forcing it down to the bottom, leaving the roof of its cabin exposed.

Neptune’s greedy fingers had wrenched cell phones from the hands of everyone on board except for Cher.

As the waves continued their assault the children and the two grown-ups huddled atop the cabin, hoping that help would come soon.

Cher had called 911 and the Coast Guard’s New Orleans group sent a helicopter to search for the stricken craft.

In Chauvin Capt. Mike Ledet of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Water Patrol got the call and sped to the LUMCON dock where his patrol boat waited.

Usually the deputies go out in pairs on these kinds of missions.

“I wasn’t going to wait for anyone,” said Mike, who has performed many rescues by himself.

The squalls had moved on but there was still a heavy chop as he navigated toward the place where he was told the vessel would be.

Wet and frightened, the children and adults were helped onto the patrol boat, and after doing some necessary paperwork Mike headed for T-Irv’s Marina.

Agents from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries met them there and took the family to their home.

It was a story with a happy ending — for the most part — but the potential for what might have been is something Mike couldn’t get out of his head.

That he was able to reach the sunken boat was cause for joy, however.

“I am out here to help people,” he later said.

Resources like Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s Water Patrol are not all that prevalent in the nation’s coastal areas. Lafourche has a water patrol division as well. But port towns with much bigger populations don’t have what is here in a lot of cases, so mariners here are a lot better off for the effort that gets expended.

And why should they not be?

People like Dereck Celestin are the living legacy of our community’s commercial fishing culture, a culture that stretches back for centuries. It’s nice to know that when things get rough there are people like Mike Ledet who can make a difference.

It all works out better when boaters do a good job of checking the weather before venturing out, especially with children.

But then again, there are those times when nature is fickle and unpredictable.

Mike said there were plans for Dereck to go where his sunken boat is and salvage the vessel.

Now as in the past there is little doubt that friends and family will help, with hopes for all that the Little Dukie Boy will rise again.