Manny Kourinos, 52, was out removing mooring balls on Thursday when he heard sirens and saw a car slip below the surface of the water near the boat launch at East End Beach. Within minutes, he was in his diving gear and pulling the unresponsive driver from the water. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Manny Kourinos of Atlantic Mooring Services was on his lobster boat near Portland’s East End Beach boat launch taking off mooring balls to prepare for winter when he heard the sirens.

He’s used to hearing sirens while he’s working on the water during the summer, but on Thursday afternoon there seemed to be more than usual. Through the glare of the sun, Kourinos and his assistant, Mike Greene, saw what they thought might be a car in the water.

“We said ‘We better get over there,’ ” Kourinos said Friday morning in a phone interview while he was out hauling lobster traps.

As they made their way toward the car, they watched it slip below the surface.

The Portland Fire Department was notified at 12:08 p.m. Thursday that a car had driven into the ocean and was sinking. Fire and police responders arrived two minutes later and confirmed the car, a red, 2015 Ford Mustang that had been stolen from South Portland that morning, was sinking about 75 yards from shore with a person inside.

Three or four emergency responders were already in the 50-degree water when Kourinas got to them, but divers were still on their way. Kourinos, who has been diving for 20 years and keeps his gear in his boat, knew there was no time to lose.


With Greene’s help, he scrambled to get his suit and tank on.

“One of the guys told me the window is open but we can’t get the person out,” he said. “I reached out and grabbed the individual. I pulled them through the window and swam them up to the surface and passed them over to the people in the water.”

Kourinos, 52, said the woman was “totally unresponsive” when he pulled her from the car.

Rescuers help get a woman out of the water after she drove a stolen vehicle into the ocean at Portland’s Eastern Promenade park on Thursday. Courtesy of NewsCenter Maine

“It was just a floating body, which has been one of my biggest fears in my life. I never wanted to be the one looking for a body,” he said. “I was hoping to get there in time so the person could be saved.”

The Marine 3 fire boat crew started CPR before bringing the 33-year-old driver to shore. On the mainland, crews were able to resuscitate her before she was rushed to the hospital, where she was in stable condition Thursday night.

Kourinos said he got goosebumps when he was told the woman had been revived.


“The biggest excitement of the experience for me was hearing (the driver) would hopefully live,” he said.

Officials have not released the name of the driver, who is from Massachusetts, South Portland Police Lt. Chris Todd said. The department became aware of the rescue while investigating a report of a stolen Ford Mustang at 301 Cottage Road, where another stolen car from Worcester, Massachusetts, had been left, he said.

Police have not found evidence of any relationship between the driver and the owner of the Mustang and they believe the theft was a “random act,” Todd said.

The police department is asking the district attorney’s office to consider charging the driver with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and isn’t releasing the name until a decision on whether to charge is made, Todd said.

After rescuing the woman, Kourinos went in the water a second time to double-check the backseat to make sure there was no one else in the car and to get the license plate number for police.

Portland fire officials say Kourinos was in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.


“Our people were able to force access into the vehicle and to the occupant while underwater, but Manny being able to remain underwater really made a difference in the removal of the occupant from the vehicle,” said Portland Deputy Fire Chief Kevin McGuire, who was the on-scene incident commander.

Sean Donaghue, spokesman for the fire department, said Kourinos’ role in the rescue was extraordinary.

“His ability to stay underwater was absolutely vital to getting the occupant out of the vehicle,” he said.

This was not the first time Kourinos has sprung into action when someone needed help.

In May, two people had fallen out of a sailboat and somebody on shore heard them calling for help. Kourinos steered his boat through the mooring field and found a husband and wife and their dog holding onto the side of their sailboat, unable to get back in on their own because the water was so cold. Kourinos pulled them from the water.

Several Novembers ago, he pulled a man from the water and brought him to paramedics after the man’s boat capsized off the coast of Falmouth.

Kourinos, who is from Falmouth, said he just wanted to help in all of those situations. He hopes the woman he pulled from the car has the support she needs to fully recover.

“I think it was part of God’s plan for me to be there at that time to save her,” he said.

Staff Writer John Terhune contributed to this report. 

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