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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In A Blink Of An Eye - Accident Update In Maui Channel Swim

The following update has been reviewed and approved by John Caughlin and his family. Anyone wishing to offer support for John in any way can do so via a PayPal address as well as the home address for John’s sister in Encinitas, Californnia where John will begin his recovery from this terrible tragedy.

Dear Maui Channel Swimmers,

Thank you all for participating in the 2011 Maui Channel Swim. The conditions this year were certainly challenging and made for an exciting but difficult swim. We saw exceptional endurance, adventure, and achievement, but this year we also saw tragedy.

John Caughlin, one of our solo swimmers making the crossing, was hit by a boat as he was approaching the finish line. Lifeguards on Jet skis were immediately on the scene to rescue and provide emergency treatment for John, but the boat propeller had caused horrific injuries to both arms, and he was rushed to Maui Memorial Hospital.

Despite heroic efforts in an 11-hour operation, the surgeons were unable to salvage John's right arm and it was removed above the elbow. The left arm was reconstructed; however there was extensive damage to the left hand. John's left index finger, thumb, and a portion of the hand had been traumatically amputated by the propeller.

The remaining three fingers sustained multiple fractures and severe lacerations. Just 4 days after the incident, John underwent another surgery to reconstruct what remains of his left hand. Additional surgical procedures and grafts will be needed to continue the reconstruction. John will remain hospitalized in Maui for another week and will then have the opportunity to return to California for continued treatment.

Without the use of either of his hands, John will require 24/7 care for quite some time, and has a long, hard recovery ahead of him including surgeries and rehabilitation over the next twelve months and beyond.

This was John's third Maui Channel Swim and his first solo. He has participated in many challenging open water events both in California and Hawaii. Anyone who knows John personally, will tell you what an uncomplaining, determined and generous spirit he has. It is people like John that make us all proud to be a part of the open water swimming community.

We know that many of you want to reach out to John and support him during his recovery. For those who would like to make a monetary contribution, a Pay Pal account has been set up in John's name and can be accessed here.

Cards and letters of encouragement can be sent in care of his sister, Jennifer Dorsey at: 1210 Green Orchard Place, Encinitas, CA 92024, U.S.A. For those who would like to offer other assistance, all support is welcome.

John has enormous challenges ahead. We want to support him in meeting these challenges. We look forward to sending out news of John's recovery and healing. In the meantime, we send our prayers.

We are sending this letter out to the Swim Team Captains, as that is the only email we have on the application. We ask that each team captain send this letter to every member of his/her team and to their boat captain if possible.


Ian Emberson, Race Director
Coco Emberson

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source


  1. Steven, are there any updates into the investigation of the person who hit John? Who? Prosecuted? ...


  2. John is an AWESOME person. So happy there is a venue to make a positive contribution rather than focusing on the negative (prosecution and law suits)

  3. I don;t know John - I don't do open water swims, but I do still think of myself as a swimmer and can't imagine the pain, physical & emotional that he is going through. Because he is an awesome athlete I know he will fight to recover his life. I'll send all my possible energy to him to help his fight.

  4. John...there are lots of people thinking about you...i have thought about you often since your accident. we will be rooting for you my friend...

  5. John, I don't know you, but I know the ows community in nyc is a family who embraces anyone in need without question or pause. Sending heartfelt encouragement to help you through. Let us know what we can do as things come up ~ we'll be here for you.

  6. Hi Steve,
    Let me ask you to consider editing comments, or even not posting them if the comment pertains to blame, lawsuits, prosecutions. I believe you have the right to do just that.

    Once the actual events are known, (they are not other than by John, maybe Mike Mitchell), I think it appropriate to post as you see fit. My take is there are some real clowns out there just interested in revenge and blame, not facts, and not even positive reinforcements here. The facts are not known by anyone here in Cyberland, rumor and gossip should not be allowed at any time.

  7. John is a brilliant guy. As long as he is able to use his incredible and complex brain, he will make a difference in the world. He is a true giver and is loved by many many people. I hope more and more of you get to know this man. John comes from an amazing and loving family. John has been injured severely before, involving him on a bike and a car. He had many months of recovering and after almost losing his leg, He was able to ride his bike cross country. He is indeed and athlete's athlete. He's tough, active and strong. It's now time for his brain to take him to his next level.
    John please know we are praying for you in California and while we mourn the losses you have endured, we also know that you will reinvent yourself and will continue to amaze us. You are loved and hope you are feeling better every day.

  8. I had hoped my eyes had deceived me when I saw the accident. I can't stop wondering how John is doing. From the sounds of it, he is a man of great determination and integrity. I hope to see more updates as he is released from the hospital and through his recovery. Thoughts and prayers to John from our family.

  9. It's perfectly appropriate for people to be curious about the investigation of this horrible accident. It's not about blame...it's about feeling helpless and concerned about John and hoping that justice is served. I suspect it will be some time until the investigation is complete and there is a full accounting of facts, but it's not ghoulish to be curious about how it's proceeding and I hope that the comment section is not edited to remove those particular posts. That said, of course the priority is sending John and his family all the love and support and prayers and positive energy that we can. He's an exceptional man--he was before the accident and still is.

  10. John is an amazing guy with a true spirit. He loves open water swimming and he loves the other swimmers that love it also. In some ways it's too bad that Hawaii loves the "hang loose" attitude over the people and activities that they do- it seems we will never be given a real "report" on the facts of this accident by the "experts" and it seems that there is no prosecution in Hawaii for idiots that do things which would be "illegal" in other states- like running over swimmers with power boats....

  11. If you are not already following John's blog, here it is http://lifeafter615.blogspot.com/
    I speak to him weekly and he is doing great!


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