Man honored for rescuing family

It was a low-key presentation for a laid-back guy who happened to rescue a family from drowning.

The Newport Harbor Exchange Club Thursday honored Skip Staats, the boater who pulled three people out of a sinking car rammed off the Balboa Island Ferry in January.

"Honestly, it was nothing," said Staats before the luncheon presentation at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club.

In a tan Hawaiian shirt and khaki pants, he received the group's Book of Golden Deeds award, for "quick thinking and knowing what to do immediately."

Staats was sipping his morning coffee on the Balboa Island shore Jan. 13 when a woman driving a black Mercedes sedan accelerated instead of braking while boarding the ferry. She hit the back of a minivan filled with a family vacationing from Taiwan.

Staats and another boater maneuvered their crafts to the windows of the van and pulled the family members aboard, just before it sank. Nobody was hurt.

"Had he not acted, we would have had four international tourists going glub, glub," said Garry TeWinkle, an Exchange Club member who organized the award. "That would have been a real black eye."

The other rescuer, James Donoghue, could not be located before the ceremony, TeWinkle said.

Typically, the club honors someone for ongoing public service, but it makes exceptions every once in a while.

The last time it honored a person for a one-time act was in 1994, when a maid at a Newport Beach Marriott turned in a bag of jewelry estimated at $100,000.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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