Person of the Week
Evan Kamoen: From a Life on the Water to Lifesaving
Evan Kamoen, along with fishing buddies Luke Voegeli and Ryan Kelly, were in the right place at the right time—and most important, with the right safety training—to help rescue five boaters off Clinton this summer. (Photo courtesy of Evan Kamoen)
“It’s a ‘We’re just a couple of teenagers’ kind of deal,” is how Evan Kamoen nonchalantly describes himself along with his friends Luke Voegeli of Guilford and Ryan Kelly of Stonington. What these couple of average teenagers did was save the lives of five boaters off the coast of Clinton in June.
Being on the water is nothing new for Evan, a Killingworth resident.
“Can you hear me? I’m actually out on the water right now,” is how 18-year-old Evan begins a recent telephone interview.
Luckily, Evan and his friends happened to on the water during that fateful day.
On the afternoon of June 21, Evan, Ryan, Kelly and Luke Voegeli headed out on Evan’s boat to do some fishing at Six Mile reef, a fishing hot spot off of Clinton where Evan and his friends like to catch stripers, blues, and sea bass.
“We headed out in the afternoon—it was an after-work type of deal to do some fishing,” Evan recalls.
Little did they know, at that same time also on Six Mile Reef was a boat containing five men between the ages of 72 and 80 that had begun taking on water and had a motor that wouldn’t start. The owner of the boat ordered everyone to put on lifejackets and got on the radio to put out a mayday call.
Evan heard the distress call over his radio and began looking around the area.
“It was not a nice day by any means, so there weren’t any boats out on the water. When they said Six Mile Reef, I said ‘Well that’s where we are.’ I saw one other boat so I knew it had to be them and we went over,” says Evan.
When Evan approached the men and their boat, the broken vessel flipped over “shockingly fast,” according to Evan, with two men trapped underneath it, one man clinging to its side, and two men thrown into the water.
“They were all wearing life jackets, thank God. Seeing them is when the adrenaline kicked in and we knew we had to do what we had to do,” says Evan.
While Evan controlled the boat, Voegeli and Kelly hauled the men aboard, which was no easy feat since Evan says his boat doesn’t have a ladder or swim platform. Due to size limitations, Evan and his friends could only take four of the men aboard while one stayed in the water.
“It was getting kind of sketchy, but then I saw a boat coming in the distance,” says Evan.
Another boat had heard the radio chatter and, 15 minutes after the initial distress call, the second boat arrived on scene to rescue the fifth man.
With the men aboard, the two boats headed to Clinton harbor, where they were escorted in by emergency services. While the rescue and trip back were underway, Evan was in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard, Clinton Police, Westbrook Police, and other emergency services.
“I made sure everyone knew what was going on,” Evan says.
On the way back, one of the men realized he had seen Evan just the day before at the tackle shop Evan works at.
“I told him, ‘Hey, long time no see,’” Evan says, laughing.
For their efforts, Evan and his friends were given awards by their hometowns and the Coast Guard.
“We’re lucky we were there to help. We did what everyone else would do in that situation,” says Evan of the awards. “There’s so much tragedy on the water, it was good we were able to prevent one.”
For Evan, two things were key to the rescue.
“I just want to stress how important the life jackets and the radio is,” says Evan.
Had the men not already had their jackets on before they got into the water, and had Evan and the other boat not had their radios on, the consequences could have been tragic.
“Thank God they had them onboard and in a place they could easily reach them,” says Evan.
Being by the water is nothing new for Evan.
“I’ve been fishing since before I could walk,” says Evan.
Evan has been boating for about eight years but especially more in the last two since he and his friends can go out and fish. Additionally, as a student at the Marine Science Magnet School in Groton, Evan has also taken intensive boating courses over several months.
“We have a lot of experience for our ages. About two years ago, when me and my friends could go out more, I picked it up more from there,” says Evan.
Evan pilots a 20-foot 2006 Angler Walkaround, which he describes as “nothing crazy, it gets us out there.” As for hobbies, Evan says there’s only one.
“We don’t really do anything else besides fishing,” Evan says with a chuckle.
That means anytime, any weather.
“We just fish. Some kids like to play video games, some stay up all night and go to the mall, some play sports; we just like to fish. Wherever the fish are, we’ll be,” says Evan.
This fall, Evan will be attending the University of New England where he plans to study marine biology. He hopes to one day have a job preserving fisheries.
“I like spending time around the water—ocean, river, lake, pond—whatever it may be,” says Evan.
Though he leaves for college soon, Evan says he has a special appreciation for his hometown.
“I like that Killingworth is small you know everyone. I like that it’s quiet and tucked away from stuff,” says Evan.