Jeremy Cox,The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times
DEAL ISLAND, Md. - Fire Chief Donald Ford's phone has been ringing like never before.
Things just haven't been the same since an early Wednesday morning call put him and his department in the national spotlight.
CNN, NBC's Today Show, CBS News, Baltimore's ABC affiliate - they are among the news outlets clamoring to hear about his role in the rescue of a family after their boat partially sunk in Tangier Sound.
Ford's phone was the first one dialed after one of the boaters, John F. Riggs, swam five hours in darkness and against a flood tide to make it to shore. Ford told the caller, an occupant of the first home the Rock Hall, Md., man found, to call 911. Then he set to work organizing a search party.
After a two-hour search that included assistance from Riggs himself, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and others, the four remaining boaters were found still clinging to the upside-down Carolina Skiff.
The group included Riggs' 70-year-old father, also named John Riggs; Contessa Riggs, 43, of Washington, D.C.; her son, Conrad Drake, 3; and her niece, Emily Horn, 9, of California.
"This one was a good rescue, especially the man doing the swimming," Ford said. "It's amazing he made it, to tell you the truth."
The story has pinged its way across the globe.
Carol Wood and Angela Byrd live in the Chance, Md., home where Riggs, 46, turned up soaked and asking for help at about 1 a.m. Byrd, director of membership at Delmarva Public Radio in Salisbury, Md., said former radio colleagues from as far as The Netherlands and Great Britain have said they've seen the story.
"It's great that the media is picking up on a positive story," Wood said. "So often the stories you see on the news and read in the paper aren't that positive."
The elder Riggs said Friday "it was a miracle" his son survived the swim. If it weren't for the crab pot he found and used to rest his tired arms, his son might not have made it.
But Riggs hasn't been paying attention to the media since he returned home to Salisbury.
"I'm not an attention-getter," he said.
Rather, he has been working on fixing the 16-foot boat, which was righted and hauled to shore.
The engine runs now that the oil has been replaced and several wires have been changed. He hopes to have it back out on the water in about two or three weeks.
Wood and Byrd said the hero of the story is the younger Riggs, who put his life on the line to save his family. They caught up with the father and son later that day in town and got to know them better.
"They're two humble, nice guys. I'm feeling they're pretty overwhelmed by the attention," Wood said.