Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rescued Florida boy surprises Coast Guard with a thank you

ST. PETERSBURG — Luke Finch, the boy rescued at sea from his estranged father, turned up again Sunday near Salt Creek Marina.

A surprised U.S. Coast Guard got called in again, too.

Not that anyone minded. Unlike the frantic events of last Tuesday's daring save southwest of Fort Myers, the event was a thank-you lunch at Fish Tales Seafood and Steak House by owner Dan Wesner.

Wesner told the Coast Guard — regulars at his place — and other authorities to come for lunch. But he didn't tell all the "coasties" about the return of Luke Finch with mom Christa and grandma Julie. The family was driven there by Nellie Woodruff, the Cocoa detective, who delivered him from his father's boat. Woodruff called Luke "like a nephew."

Stephen Smith, senior officer of the rescue boat, the Coast Guard cutter Crocodile, showed up with three other members thinking it was a casual afternoon. Instead, Luke delivered to him a crystal boat steering wheel from Fish Tales, thanking the agency for "a job well done." Had they known, all 11 crew members would have come, Smith said.

"It's absolutely amazing. We're so grateful and blessed," said Christa Finch afterward. "God answered our prayers."

Luke's rescue ended a 2½ day saga. His father, Paul Martikainen, 35, was arrested, accused of abducting the 3-year-old boy from a supervised visit in Cocoa, then trying to sail off with his son for parts as yet unknown from the St. Petersburg marina.

Luke's attention was far from any drama on Sunday. He quietly focused on a new toy truck, a gift along with a boat-shaped phone and a Transformers toy.

For their part, Coast Guard officials gave Wesner, Christa and Luke Finch, and marina area workers Jason Taylor and Debra Van Skiver each Challenge Coins, which are a symbol of a job well done.

Van Skiver, 38, an employee of Neptune Towing and Recovery, said delivering toys to Luke was the highlight of the day. A week earlier, she was among people who gave authorities initial clues in the case.

A chalk quadrangle was traced where Luke sat his last time at the marina Sunday. Next to it, someone wrote, "Welcome Home Luke."

Staff writer Kathleen Flynn contributed to this report. David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Rescued Florida boy surprises Coast Guard with a thank you 12/06/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 6, 2009 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Watch: Sarasota vlogger goes on viral rant against MTV's 'Siesta Key'

    Blogs

    Looking forward to MTV’s Siesta Key? Well, this Florida native definitely is not.

    Vlogger Louie Carey posted his reaction to MTV's "Siesta Key" in a viral video.
  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 23: Of tiny towns, wonderful naps and dreamlike ice cream bars

    Travel

    Day 23: Murias de Rechivaldo to Foncebadon: 20.8 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-23 = 541 km (336 miles)

  3. Where Tampa's national championship ranks among the greatest games ever

    Blogs

    If you needed any more convincing that Tampa's national championship at Raymond James Stadium was one of the best games in college football history, let me direct you to

  4. In Florida a year ago today, Trump asked Russia to find Clinton's emails

    Blogs

    A year ago today, at his golf club in Doral, Donald Trump begged Russians to find Hillary Clinton's emails.

  5. Bealls and West Marine to join Pollo Tropical at redeveloped Kmart site in Clearwater

    Economic Development

    CLEARWATER — The long-vacant shopping plaza on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, formerly home to Kmart, is nearing completion, bringing a handful of well-known retailers to the area.

    The long-vacant shopping plaza on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, formerly home to Kmart, is nearing completion. .JIM DAMASKE   |   Times