Extraordinary coastguard rescue mission ends with bizarre twist
Watch: Huge wave capsizes boat as rookie U.S. Coast Guard swimmer rescues man from ocean
His rescue was so extraordinary it was viewed by millions who shared videos of enormous waves smashing against a capsized yacht off the Pacific coast of America.
But not long after the sailor recovered in hospital he was arrested, having allegedly stolen his ship after bizarrely leaving a pile of dead fish at one of the most famous houses in the area.
US Coast Guard plucked the 36-year-old out of the ocean moments after the boat he was on was hit by a massive wave at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon on Friday.
But after viewing the viral footage, police noticed the man on board was Jericho Labonte: wanted for posting a video of himself leaving his catch on the porch of a house featured in the 1985 cult classic film, The Goonies.
He had also filmed himself dancing around the property, which is a local tourist attraction.
Why he left the dead fish on the porch remains unclear.
Police in British Columbia were hunting Labonte who was wanted in connection with allegations of criminal harassment, mischief and failing to comply with officers.
His dash for freedom entailed stealing the Sandpiper, a 35-foot yacht from Astoria, where it was moored.
It was perhaps not the wisest of choices especially given the mouth of the river is notorious for rough seas and is known as “the graveyard of the Pacific”.
On Friday morning the Coast Guard, which was carrying out a training exercise, received a mayday call – albeit one without details of where the stricken yacht was.
Having located the craft, the coast guard sent a helicopter.
Labonte climbed onto the stern of the yacht but as his rescuer, Branch Walton, approached a massive wave capsized the Sandpiper, throwing the fugitive into the sea.
Such was the force of the ocean that Labonte’s life jacket was knocked off.
“I kind of got thrown around a little bit by the wave. When I came up I noticed the boat was pretty much in shambles,” Mr Walton said.
Labonte was taken to a Coast Guard base and then hospital where he was treated for hypothermia.
By the time the police saw the video of Labonte leaving the fish, Labonte had been released by the hospital.
He was later found at a hostel 22 miles south of Astoria and also faces charges of theft, endangering another person, unauthorised use of a vehicle and criminal mischief.
“It’s been a really odd 48 hours,” reflected Astoria police chief, Stacy Kelly.