Humble Hero Swims 5 Hours to Save His Family

Maryland man receives international attention, but is back to fixing his boat

John Riggs, the man that swam for five hours in darkness to save his family, isn’t reading his own press clippings.

"I'm not an attention-getter," Riggs told USA Today.

Last Tuesday, his family’s fishing boat had been overwhelmed by a storm that hit Chesapeake Bay. The boat capsized off of Deal Island on Maryland's Eastern shore. On it were Riggs' 70-year-old father, sister and two children, ages three and nine.

As Riggs swam for shore, his family clung to the boat, which drifted another five miles in sea nettle-infested waters. After climbing the rocky shoreline, he found a house and dialed 911, triggering a search and rescue that saved his family.

Ever since the successful rescue, Riggs’ heroics have earned him international attention. But instead of reveling in his new-found fame, the 46-year-old from Salisbury, MD is back working on his 16-foot Carolina skiff that was righted and pulled to shore.  He has the engine running again and hopes to have the boat back out on the water in two or three weeks.

Riggs’ 9-year-old niece Emily says, “he’s a real hero,” and added that the next time the family goes fishing, “I’ll go if the water is really shallow.”

Carol Wood, the owner of the home that Riggs stumbled upon at about 1am, said she caught up with Riggs and his father 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.