30 years ago, on July 25th (1987), my brother, Leland Matthew Welsh, drown when the fishing boat he was a crew member on sank off the coast of Alaska. In hindsight, of course, his death should never have happened. He was one of 5 crew members on the Binky when it set off from Seattle with them and 5 survival suits on board. Each of them had paid for their suits before leaving port, as was required. At some point along their journey the skipper brought a 6th crew member on board at one of the ports in Alaska. While crossing a rough channel the boat began taking on large amounts of water and the skipper directed his full attention to that. It seems that the boat must have sprung a plank as it sank so quickly the skipper hadn’t radioed for help nor had he warned the crew to get into their survival suits dry while they could or to make sure the skiff was away from the boat so that it would be safe and available for them to get into. The 6th crew member must have recognized the precariousness of the situation as he had put on a suit while still on board before the boat went under, unlike the rest of the crew. He swam off to a nearby island while the rest of the crew scrambled into the remaining 4 suits while in the water and stayed together. All were in the water for over 10 hours before the one made it to the island and the others happened to be spotted by a passing boat and rescued. Apparently Lee put his legs through the armholes of a life jacket to help stay afloat, but it was not protection from the cold. Lee had maybe 20 minutes in the frigid water before the elements took his life, circumstances were such that there was no other possibility. Survival Suits and Life Jackets have the names they do for a reason -- they are insurance for when the unthinkable happens.
It is a tragic story in so many ways. Of course it was devastating for me, the rest of my family and everyone else who knew and loved Lee. When you lose a loved one the sense of loss never really goes away though time does help in the healing process. But I have to say that knowing my brother as well as I did, he would never have allowed himself to be one of the survivors, with a sense of responsibility or guilt on his shoulders, knowing that one of them would have to die. Perhaps he’s the lucky one. My family and I commend the one of the four who held on to his body the entire 10 plus hours before being rescued so that it would not float away. Lord knows that that, nor life afterwards, could not have been easy for him or any of the survivors.
Lee left in his prime. He was 26 years old, a middle school teacher in Camarillo, California, a location that allowed him to live in Ventura close to the ocean where he could surf year round, and was an example to all who knew him as to how to follow one’s passion, be a strong, masculine, loving man in service to others, and make the most of life. I’m blessed to have had him as my brother and grateful he left while in his favorite element and living his life to the fullest.
His courageous, loving spirit will forever be in my heart.
|Monica Hooge||11/06/2017||$100.00||Kim Cuellar||11/06/2017||$25.00||Alison Hellmund||11/02/2017||$25.00||Thank you, Nora Jeanne, for positively impacting our minds, bodies and spirits through your good works!||Nora Jeanne Welsh||10/31/2017||$852.59||Tracey Sledge||10/30/2017||$25.00||Michele Moore||10/22/2017||$25.00||For Nora Jean||Connie Paley||10/20/2017||$100.00||Gigi Byrd||10/20/2017||$25.00||Heather Brunner||10/20/2017||$100.00||Thank you Nora Jeanne for your community impact!||Kristin Breshears||10/16/2017||$25.00||Ann Lancaster||10/16/2017||$50.00||Susan Wilson||10/15/2017||$100.00||Jose Cardenas||10/15/2017||$25.00||Susan Phariss||10/14/2017||$100.00||This donation is in honor of my husband's big brother, Mike, who at 8 years old pulled Paul out of the pool, unconscious, saving his life.||Yesenia Orta||10/14/2017||$25.00||Happy to be part of this effort!||Deepa Donde||10/13/2017||$25.00||For Nora Jean Welsh||Christie Dudley||10/13/2017||$25.00||Grateful to assist this worthy cause.||Karen Schexnaydre||10/12/2017||$100.00||Katy O'Rourke||10/11/2017||$25.00||Wonderful charitable organization with a positive outcome to keep loved ones safe in the water that we all love so much.||Bethany Ehrenberg||10/10/2017||$25.00||Cindy Davis||10/08/2017||$25.00||Darren Moore||10/05/2017||$50.00||Nora Jeanne Welsh||09/24/2017||$1,181.27||Nora Jeanne Welsh||09/04/2017||$713.75||Nora Jeanne Welsh||08/03/2017||$599.67||Nora Jeanne Welsh||06/30/2017||$824.25||Nora Jeanne Welsh||05/20/2017||$1,369.87||Nora Jeanne Welsh||04/11/2017||$677.00||Nora Jeanne Welsh||03/13/2017||$952.71||Nora Jeanne Welsh||02/10/2017||$1,340.70|