Father and son honored for saving drowning man

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2006

Allison T. Williams

Kyle A. Coghlan opened his bedroom window on a spring night to enjoy the evening breeze blowing in off the Chuckatuck Creek.

But in doing so, he never expected what happened next. He heard an elderly man’s cries of distress.


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A distraught man, in his 80s, had apparently attempted to take his own life by jumping from the Sidney Bertram Hazelwood Sr. Bridge on U.S. 17 around 11 p.m. May 23, 2005, according to police.

The man, who had floated downstream in the Chuckatuck Creek toward the Coghlan family’s waterfront home, was calling for help.

Launching their motor boat, Coghlan, 22, and his father, Donald Coghlan, used spotlights to search the dark waterway until they finally found the man. Meanwhile, Coghlan’s sister, Morgan, called police and paramedics to the family’s home off Crittenden Road.

On Thursday, the Suffolk Police Department recognized both Kyle and Donald Coghlan, giving them two of the 18 citizen awards presented during the department’s 2005 Awards Ceremony.

“Their actions saved this man’s life,” said SPD Major Larry Wilson.

Coghlan, a senior at Old Dominion University, said he is proud to have received the recognition. But even more inspiring was hearing some of the other stories that earned awards for other citizens, police officers and even a couple of police dogs.

“I think it was an awesome ceremony,” he said.

Coghlan, an avid surfer and boater, said he has helped swimmers floundering in the ocean before. But helping pull the elderly man to safety was a different experience for him.

“It gave me a good feeling,” he said. “There was a good vibe around the house for a couple months.”

Coghlan said he never learned the name or what eventually happened to the man he pulled from the water that night.

“I’ll always wonder about that,” he said. “I’d really like to know. I hope he was OK.”

Other Citizen Service Awards went to:

n Barry Russ, who on July 21, 2005, helped lead police to a man working in the woods who was in need of medical assistance. The victim had became dehydrated and disoriented, but was able to make a cell phone call to police before losing cellular service.

n Leiane Macky, the charge nurse for the midnight shift at Obici Hospital, on May 28, 2005, became suspicious while treating a patient with cuts to his arms and legs.

When the patient refused to offer any explanation of the injury, Macky called the Suffolk Police Department. Turns out, the patient was a burglary suspect who had led officers on a foot chase earlier in the evening.

n Diana Klink, who works in Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, was recognized for her continued support to the department’s National Night Out initiative. She regularly attends events associated with NNO, serves on the planning committee and creates much of the NNO’s promotional materials. For the past several years, Suffolk has received national recognition for its NNO activities, partially thanks to Klink’s contributions.

n Rebecca Meston, the wife of Lt. John H. Meston, and their young children, Rendon and Aliya, were eating in a Chesapeake restaurant when a woman’s purse was stolen. Lt. Meston became involved and left to pursue the suspects. His wife and children stayed behind at the restaurant, providing comfort and conversation to the distraught victim.

n Gail Williams, Ross Boone, Ken Williams, Vernon Towler, Michele Duncan, Grant Knight, Joan Jones, Andre Hicks, Brenda Savage, and Cathy Wolford, all members of the Suffolk Crime Line board, were recognized for the countless hours they devote to making the crime-fighting program a success.