This week marks one month since Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida and the pain and destruction left behind are still clearly evident.
Those who stayed during the storm have a story to tell and each one is unique and powerful.
But, for Kevin Ott, it’s more than a story, he gained a new family after what he did during Hurricane Ian.
“He saved us,” Mary Ann Dineen said.
“Superman, with a cape behind his back is ready to fly off and take off and to save whoever needs to be saved,” Jordan said.
When Ian hit, Ott checked in on his family, including his kids and grandmother, Mary Ann Dineen.
“She texts me back. She goes, ‘You need to come get us.’ I’m like, ‘That’s fine. I’ll come get you.’ I said ‘Let me run my truck all the way down here,'” Ott said. “By the time we got down to the very end of the corner, what we could have gone to her. It was unbelievable. In the water. We just looked like a river, which was really weird. A river in the middle of a road.”
Island Park Road and Ott’s truck were not going to make it.
“Without this boat, we’d be in trouble. I called Billy up my buddy Billy,” Ott said.
Billy supplied the boat and Ott along with his kids launched out of Island Park High School with one thing on their mind.
“I was going to the grandma. That was it,” Ott said.
While en route, Kristin Millar’s husband was the first to be spotted. He swam out of his home to get help but got stuck in a preserve.
“He was floating in a white jacket holding onto a boat. We were like, ‘Come on, let’s go. We’ll get you in,’ and then he goes, ‘You gotta get my son, my wife, my next-door neighbor,” Ott said.
His wife Kristin, and their 3-year-old son Bryce were clinging to a tree.
“I had one arm around him there maybe holding on to the jacket. I can’t really remember. I wasn’t letting them go,” Kristin said.
All of this was done before swimming to their neighbor, Sam’s house.
“He was in front of me while I doggie paddled basically, to keep him in front of me and he was grasping onto me,” Kristin said. “We went in there and I shielded Bryce from the wind put him in a corner on top of the dry bag.”
To keep Bryce calm, Kristen sang the song You Are My Sunshine, for hours nonstop. While singing, Kristen was praying for her husband and that a miracle would arrive, and eventually, her prayers were answered.
“I don’t remember what they said when the boat came. I just feel when I got on it, they had Bryce who was protected, my husband was there and I crawled into a fetal position,” Kristin said. “And I just said okay, like, we’re good. And then we started picking up more people.”
“We didn’t think we just kept on going, as fast as we could picking up people,” Ott said.
But, Ott and his kids didn’t forget about their grandmother, they maneuvered between homes, going under wires, and through a storm to get to Mary Ann. Her daughter, Kaitlin, her daughter’s boyfriend, Colton, and their pets.
“When I saw how fast the water was coming in, it’s like, I switch gears and was like, okay, my mom can’t swim very well. My dogs like, barely can walk normal. So he… I hear him going for the canoe,” Kaitlin said.
“Water was rushing in. But then Colton starts filling gaps and a propane tank with the neighbors lodged underneath our broken garage door and was spewing propane into our house,” Mary Ann said.
“As soon as we started smelling the gas, that’s when I knew we had a serious problem that we’re gonna suffocate,” Colton said.
“I told Kevin that we weren’t going to make it. He said ‘Yeah, I’ll find a way,'” Mary Ann said.
And, that’s exactly what Ott did. He grabbed the roof to sturdy the boat while a neighbor banged on the window to get their attention. And all this time late, you can still see the handprints on the glass.
“She was floating in the canoe, with the dog, her daughter, her daughter’s boyfriend, the cat. And I was like, we gotta get them,” Ott said. “So my kids jumped out, broke the door open, they kicked the door open. And out comes the canoe with all of them on it.”
“He looked like an angel. He pulled up on this pontoon boat to our front door, took us out of the canoe and onto the pontoon boat,” Mary Ann said.
12 people, two cats, and a dog all on a pontoon boat were rescued together and comforting each other while in the middle of Hurricane Ian.
“We thought that it was the end, we did a lot of praying. And our first prayers came true,” Mary Ann said. “Yeah, lots of people in our area weren’t as lucky. We can rebuild that you can’t put a price on our life.”
“All of us are so close now,” Mary Ann said. “We’re gonna have a special Thanksgiving together.”
The people rescued told WINK News, they all plan to rebuild what was lost.
As for Ott, he said he’s living in a home with a hold and is stuck in the permitting process of rebuilding in Lee County. And while he waits, Ott and his employees at Seminole Wind Marina are helping the community by recovering displaced boats.