On This Day: October 10, 1972 — Father Tows His 3 Sons & Father To Shore After 8-12 Hours Of Swimming In The Atlantic Ocean.
Facts & Information:
George J. Jaeger and family members went fishing.
Dad was with his father and his three children.
The boat’s engine died while at sea — in the Atlantic Ocean.
The engine refused to restart, and they could no longer maneuver the board.
They were hit with six-foot waves which ultimately filled and sunk the boat.
Dad tied all the children together with a rope, attached to their life-vests.
It was approximately 6:30 pm when the boat sunk.
George and the family tried to stay afloat, and dad swam through the night till he reached shore.
George Jaeger spent eight to twelve hours attempting to swim back to shore.
Throughout the night, one by one, all four children died, along with George’s father.
George Jaeger made it back to shore with all three bodies attached to him, and his father was found further down the beach.
“EDGARTOWN, Mass., Oct. 10 (UPI)—A 41‐year‐old man, towing his three dead sons, reached shore today after swimming through the night in stormy seas when his boat sank off Chappaquiddick Island. The man’s father also died.
The police said that the boys’ father, George J. Jaeger of Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, had tied his sons together at their waists with a rope connected to his body and swam up to 12 hours to reach shore.
The authorities said the father had become unconscious when he reached the beach at Chappaquiddick Island shortly after dawn. He regained consciousness about an hour later and struggled to a nearby home seeking help.
Three policemen went to the beach and found the boys — Bruce, 15; Robert, 11, and Clif ford, 10—tied together and lying on the beach. All were wearing life‐preservers. A medical examiner said they had been dead for several hours.
The body of their grandfather, George C. Jaeger, 73, was found about 150 yards away. He, too, wore a life jacket.
The younger Mr. Jaeger, who moved his family to Martha’s Vineyard from Brookfield, N. H., last June to become manager of a housing development, was taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital where doctors said he was in “very good” condition.
Dr. David Rappoport said the father had “apparently put preservers on the boys, tied them together and then tried to pull them ashore with a rope. “But I understand that the boys kept slipping under and falling asleep,” he said.
The family had gone on a fishing trip yesterday on their 30‐foot cabin cruiser. Mr. Jaeger told the police “we were steaming along all right” last evening when the boat suddenly began to sink.”
Key Illustrative Thoughts:
• It wasn’t supposed to end this way
• love of family
• trying to save all alive
• never lost hope
• salvation – being with Jesus
• not fearing death / fearing death
• “didn’t want to accept it”*
• endurance & love
• under times of great stress
• most of us — “small does over a long period of time”*
• effective fathers
• effective leaders
• making hard decisions
• maximum obedience was required if there was any hope*
• Father’s Day
• Oh, the pain — What it must have been like
Other Information & Links:
“George Jaeger went fishing. He was joined on the expedition by his father and three sons. It was late in the afternoon when the boat’s engine sputtered, stalled, and refused to restart. No longer able to keep the boat headed into the waves, they were broadsided by six-foot swells. Faster than they could bail, hundreds of gallons of water splashed over the side of the ship. It became obvious the vessel was going down. Man and boy, they checked and rechecked the buckles on their life-jackets; tied themselves tightly together with a rope and then they silently stepped off the ship into the black water of the Atlantic.
The ship went down at 6:30 P.M. There wasn’t time for the men to mourn the vessel’s demise; they were swimming for their lives. Experience, along with a choking mouthful of water, told them not to talk. They had one job, and one job only – to swim to shore. If this were a made-up story, I would say the family performed some great heroics which ended up with all hands being saved. But this is not a made-up story and George Jaeger’s boys didn’t all make it. One of the sons grew weary of keeping his head up; swallowed too much saltwater, gagged, and drowned. One after another they strangled on the salty water and died. George heard his boys die, and then they were followed by his father.
But George didn’t give up. Through the night he swam; through the darkness he kept going. Finally, after eight terrible, tragic hours George staggered ashore. But George didn’t rest. He still had a job to do. He had to pull the bodies of his sons and father from the sea. I want you to imagine that moment, to picture his pain. George said, “I realized they were all dead – my three boys and my father – but I guess I didn’t want to accept it, so I kept swimming all night long.”
Jesus changes things. If the story stopped here, you would rightly wonder how. But the story continues. Listen to what George told reporters later on. He said, “My youngest boy, Clifford, was the first to go. I had always taught our children not to fear death because it was being with Jesus Christ. Before Cliff died, I heard him say: Dad I’d rather be with Jesus than go on fighting.” That’s where Jesus made a difference. Death came to a boy who had started the day on a fishing trip with Dad and Grandpa. Death came to a boy who was being battered and brutalized by Atlantic swells. Death came to a boy – and the boy wasn’t afraid. “I’d rather be with Jesus than go on fighting.”
Hearing that story, I know there are skeptics out there who are saying, “A beautiful story, pastor, but doesn’t every religion generate people who believe just as completely, just as intensely?” Your point must be conceded. But I will also counter: People believe many things, and they believe most sincerely. But Christianity alone has a Savior who gave Himself as a sacrifice to save us. Only Christianity has a Redeemer who gave His life as the ransom price to buy our freedom. Only Christianity has evidence of a risen and living Lord. Only Christianity has the proof which makes Jesus’ words real: And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. — as told by Pastor Stephen Muncherian
Book: Gordon McDonald, The Effective Father, p. 13-14-15
* Excerpt From Gordon MacDonald’s Book “Effective Father”: