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70-year-old Coast Guard vet dies rescuing 9 children, 3 adults from sinking boat off FL coast

Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew offloads drugs in San Diego (Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Gray/Coast Guard)
April 21, 2022

The U.S. Coast Guard has identified the good Samaritan and Coast Guard vet who died while helping rescue nine children and three adults whose boat was sinking off the coast of Florida.

Bob Dykes, 70, had recently achieved a life-long dream by purchasing a 54-foot Sea Ray boat, which he docked near his home in Palm Beach Gardens. While taking his boat out for a trip over the weekend, Dykes saw another vessel that was taking on water in six-foot waves just south of the Palm Beach inlet, WPBF reported.  

“They saw the boat sinking and the children panicking and there was a lot of chaos, a lot of panic. And it was scary, there were a lot of waves and there were six-foot waves and they were near rocks,” said Katya Hutton, Dykes’ longtime partner. “He jumped in without thinking because he knew they were in danger and once he got all the children up on the boat he started to try and help the women, but the current was too strong he couldn’t get to them.”

John Snow, a captain with Sea Tow Palm Beach, said it took him roughly 15 minutes to arrive on scene and help with the rescue mission, according to WPBF.

Hutton said when Dykes attempted to return to his boat, something went wrong and the hero died before he could climb back on board.

“I saw the vessel that was capsized. I pulled up on scene. There was another vessel there helping the people out of the water,” Snow said. “It was a bunch of chaos and everybody was trying to assist everybody out of the water because we were floating closest to the rocks, trying to get everybody out so nobody else gets hurt.”

Riviera Beach Fire Department confirmed that all 12 people on the sinking boat were rescued and are in good health.

“He was a very good man. Just a good-hearted man. We can’t think of anything bad that he’s ever done to anybody. And he always was very charitable and he said when he died he wanted to open something as shelter for battered women and for children — for orphans and that’s what I’m going to do,” Hutton said.

Hutton said Dykes grew up poor but eventually found success by establishing the Family Tree Oil and Gas Corporation in Colorado. He is survived by three sons.

“I’m super sorry for the family,” Snow said. “Somebody trying to save a life ended up losing theirs and I feel bad that it happened. My heart goes out to him and his family.”