One of the great collateral benefits of working at the Seamen’s Church Institute is helping administer the Life Saving Benevolent Association (LSBA). The LSBA was founded in New York City in 1849 by private citizens committed to saving lives along the shores of New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey. The Association’s objectives are to recognize and reward courage in the rescue of human life at sea or on navigable waters; to encourage training in seamanship, rescue methods and resuscitation; and to perform other services of a charitable and educational nature. While the Seamen’s Church Institute has administered the LSBA since 2009, the LSBA remains an independent charity with its own board of directors.
I am the president of the LSBA and was recently honored, along with fellow LSBA board member and Treasurer Leslie O’Neal, to preside over the 2019 LSBA awards ceremony at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark. Since its first awards ceremony in 1850, the LSBA has been privileged to honor the lifesaving efforts of more than 1,000 heroes. This year we honored John DeVoe, Thomas Piccuro, and Captain Michael Miller for their heroic rescues.
At about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday evening of July 7, 2018 dangerously high surf and rip tides were developing at Seaside Heights, NJ beach due to Hurricane Chris. Because of the dangers for swimmers, lifeguards had posted red flag conditions before they went off duty earlier in the afternoon. The conditions were optimal, however, for experienced surfers including John DeVoe and Tom Piccuro.
While on the beach preparing to go surfing, Tom Picurro observed a man in trouble in the high waves and strong currents. Tom immediately dropped his board and swam out to the man in the rip-tide. When Tom reached the man, he was struggling, going under water, and was unresponsive to Tom’s instructions. Struggling with the man to keep both of them afloat, Tom realized quickly that they were being pulled farther out to sea by the rip tide. Tom then alerted his friend John DeVoe, who was surfing nearby, of the situation. Tom and John then managed to lift the struggling man onto John’s surfboard and swam him to a sandbar close to shore. While on the way, the man slipped off the board a few times. Upon reaching the sandbar, the man was so exhausted that he could not walk to the beach. Tom and John then carried him to the beach to his grateful family. The rescued man’s family could not swim and credited Tom and John for saving his life.
Captain Miller is the captain of the Fire Island Ferry Boat Firebird. On the morning of the Fourth of July last year, while passengers were preparing to board the vessel, a 4 year-old child slipped from his mother’s hand and fell into the water between the ferry and the bulkhead. Hearing the boy’s mother’s screams for help, Captain Miller immediately ran to the side of the Firebird and saw the child going under water between the vessel and the bulkhead. Without regard for his own safety and danger of being crushed between Firebird and the bulkhead, Captain Miller dove into the water and pulled the boy to the surface. He then handed the boy to his crew and others on the dock. Captain Miller’s immediate, selfless response saved the boy’s life.
— Douglas B. Stevenson, Esq. SCI Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights
Pictured on homepage: Douglas B. Stevenson, John DeVoe, Tom Picurro, SCI Director, Finance & Operations Leslie E. O'Neal
Pictured above: Douglas B. Stevenson, Captain Michael Miller, Leslie E. O'Neal