This week marks one month since Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida and the pain and destruction left behind is still clearly evident.
Those left behind 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,” said Mary Ann Dineen.
“Superman, with a cape on his back, is ready to fly and take off and save anyone who needs saving,” Jordan said.
When Ian arrived, Ott checked on his family, including his children and his grandmother, Mary Ann Dineen.
“She texts me back. She said, ‘You have to come get us.’ I’m like, ‘That’s good. I will come to find you. I said, ‘Let me drive my truck over here,'” Ott said. “By the time we got to the end of the corner what we could have done to him. It was amazing. In 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 weren’t going to make it.
“Without this boat, we would be in trouble. I called Billy my homie Billy,” Ott said.
Billy provided the boat and Ott and his kids left Island Park High School with one thing in mind.
“I was going to Grandma’s. That was it,” Ott said.
En route, Kristin Millar’s husband was the first to be spotted. He swam out to seek help but got stuck in a storeroom.
“He was floating in a white jacket hanging from a boat. We said to ourselves: ‘Come on, let’s go’. We’ll get you in,” then he says, “You gotta get my son, my wife, my neighbor,” Ott said.
His wife Kristin and their 3-year-old son, Bryce, were clinging to a tree.
“I had an arm around him there, maybe holding the jacket. I don’t really remember. I wouldn’t let them go,” Kristin said.
All of this was done before swimming to their neighbor, Sam’s house.
“He was in front of me as I paddled doggy style, to keep him in front of me and he was clinging to me,” Kristin said. “We went there and I shielded Bryce from the wind, put him in a corner above the dry bag.”
To keep Bryce calm, Kristen sang the song You Are My Sunshine for hours non-stop. While singing, Kristen prayed for her husband and that a miracle would happen, and finally, her prayers were answered.
“I don’t remember what they said when the boat arrived. I just feel like when I got on it they had Bryce that was shielded, my husband was there and I crawled into the fetal position,” Kristin said. “And I just said okay, like, we’re fine. And then we started taking more people.
“We didn’t think we were just keeping going, as fast as we could to pick people up,” Ott said.
But, Ott and his children did not forget their grandmother, they maneuvered between houses, going under wires and riding 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 was like I was shifting gears and I was like, okay, my mom can’t swim very well. My dogs love it, can barely walk normally So he… I hear him go get the canoe,” Kaitlin said.
“The water was rushing in. But then Colton started filling the gaps and a propane tank with neighbors got lodged under our broken garage door and spewed 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 were going to choke on,” Colton said.
“I told Kevin 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 solidify the boat while a neighbor knocked 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 have to have them,” Ott said. “So my kids jumped out, kicked down the door, kicked the door open. And the canoe comes out with everyone on it.
“He looked like an angel. He pulled up on that pontoon boat to our front door, got 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 comforted each other amid Hurricane Ian.
“We thought it was the end, we prayed a lot. And our first prayers came true,” said Mary Ann. “Yeah, a lot of people in our area weren’t so lucky. We can rebuild that you can’t put a price on our life.
“We’re all so close now,” Mary Ann said. “We are going to have a special Thanksgiving together.”
Those rescued told WINK News they all plan to rebuild what was lost.
As for Ott, he said he lived in a house with a slipway and was stuck in the rebuilding permit process in Lee County. And while he waits, Ott and his employees at Seminole Wind Marina help the community by recovering displaced boats.