Rescue of the Keeper’s Daughter

Laurier Burnham with his wife Lily and two children kept the light 1959-1963. A near tragedy occured in 1960. Laurier’s two-year-old daughter, Tammy, became seriously ill and it became imperative for her to get to the mainland for medical attention. The seas were high and weather deteriorating on the late afternoon of November 29th. when the Fletcher’s Neck Coast Guard boat, a “thirty footer,” and its four man crew left the docks at Biddeford Pool for Wood Island to bring the little girl in. They approached as closely as was safe and anchored. The Chief dispatched two of the crew in a small skiff that they had towed out with them.

Laurier Burnham, Ed Syvinski & Raymond Bill
Photo from Burnham Family

The two 19-year-old seamen made it to the boat ramp on Wood Island and keeper Burnham reluctantly handed over his daughter. The two men set out for the thirty footer with baby in hand. A tremendous swell capsized the small skiff putting Tammy and the seamen into the cold water. In the darkness and fog, neither the Light Station nor the anchored Coast Guard boat knew of the plight of these three people. Raymond Bill took off swimming towards the boat. Chief Kennedy and Engineman Rouleau spotted seamen Bill with their searchlight and got him to safety. Seaman Syvinski hung onto little Tammy even though he sank to the ocean floor several times. He continued to push off the sea floor and finally made it to nearby Negro Island and out of the water onto the rocks.

The entire Coast Guard Crew visited Tammy in the hospital the day after the rescue. Burnham Family Photos.

Laurier Burnham now knew the situation and went in search. He made it to Negro Island in his peapod and got Tammy and Syvinski into his boat and back to the thirty footer. Thanks to the brave efforts of seamen Syvinski and Bill, Keeper Burnham, Coast Guard personnel and others, Tammy was safely delivered to the docks and onto the hospital where she fully recuperated.

Thirty-three years later the Coast Guard investigated the incident and decided to present awards to Laurier Burnham and Edward Syvinski for their extroaordinary courage. An award was also presented to the widow of lobsterman Preston Alley whom the Coast Guard had determined had been instrumental in the rescue.