Two brothers whose canoes capsized on a remote lake in Maine say a crew of fast-thinking Boy Scouts from New Hampshire helped save their lives.
Michael Fiori, 67, of Brunswick, Maine, said he was shivering after more than an hour in the 50-degree Fahrenheit (10-degree Celsius) water when the Scouts, who were camping nearby, found him and warmed him with heated stones wrapped in towels Monday evening.
Larry Fiori, 70, of Kennebunk, Maine, was in the water even longer – about 3 hours – and was found clinging to a floating gas tank and his shredded life jacket. He was hospitalized with hypothermia.
“If it wasn’t for the Scouts, I don’t think either one of us would have survived,” Michael Fiori said Wednesday from a hospital in Presque Isle, Maine, where his brother was being treated.
The drama unfolded on Umsaskis Lake in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) outside of the town of Ashland.
The canoes were connected for stability when one boat blew a seam in the middle of the lake, sending the men and Larry Fiori’s dog into the water. By a stroke of luck, boys and girls from Crew 345 in Kingston, New Hampshire, had set up camp on the lake.
The brothers, both experienced fishermen, lost most of their gear with the canoe. The men scrambled into their life jackets and found themselves treading water in the middle of the lake at 7 p.m.
Adding to their woes was Cooper the dog, who nearly drowned both men by crawling onto their backs. The rat terrier was located the following morning, safe and sound, on shore.
Blowing a whistle and hollering for help, Michael Fiori swam to shore, where the Scouts found him as the sun was setting. The Scouts then alerted a ranger and used a canoe and a light to find Larry Fiori. The ranger arrived with a larger boat to retrieve him from the water.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Larry Fiori said he was paddling with one arm and clinging to the gas can with the other. He began suffering cramps and blacked out 250 to 300 feet (76 to 91 meters) from shore.
He awoke in the ranger’s cabin.
Larry Fiori said this wasn’t his first near-death experience on the water. He said he was on a boat that sank several years ago in Florida, leaving him in Biscayne Bay with sharks.
“I’m getting to the point where nobody wants to go in a boat with me. I can’t blame them,” he joked. “I get the feeling the water doesn’t like me.”