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The Daily Dish Below Deck

What Happens When You Have a Near-Death Experience Like Below Deck's Ashton Pienaar

The deckhand called his fall overboard and his rescue a "massive wake-up call."

By Marianne Garvey
Cameraman Brent Freeburg Surprises the Below Deck Yacthies

Below Deck's Ashton Pienaar got emotional talking about how cameraman Brent Freeburg saved his life after a line used to tow the tender wrapped around his ankle and dragged him into the water — which nearly ripped off his foot and almost caused him to drown.

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Brent had dropped his camera to break the line loose. He appeared on the Below Deck Season 6 reunion to humbly say it was a team effort. "Well, I would say that it wasn't just me. I've been getting a lot of attention, for sure. But it was Rhylee [Gerber] who made the first call to [Captain Lee Rosbach], Captain took the boat out of gear, Ross [Inia] who helped untie the lines," he said. "And so it was really collectively all of us that came together."

Ashton was touched, saying living through the experience has had a huge impact on his life.  "It was a massive wake-up call," Ashton, a deckhand, said "I think you get complacent, you start forgetting things on deck. It's a dangerous job we do, and I think it was just a massive wake-up call."

Commenters took to Quora to explain their own near death experiences, and what they felt for moments — and years — afterwards.


One says a life-altering swimming accident at six still haunts him to this day. "I jumped in a pool when I was 6. Nearly drowned. I’ll never know her name and I’ve long forgotten what she looks like, but a woman swam over and pulled me out of the deep end. At the time, I was so happy to see my mom that I forgot to thank the woman. I’m eternally grateful for what she did. I plan to change the world and be super successful, and she gave that opportunity back to me. It’s weird thinking about it now, but I could’ve died at six," writes Paulie Larson.

Another fell down a manhole as a kid. "In a blink of an eye, as I stepped on the manhole cover — it tilted, and down I went. All I could manage was a scream. Yes, it was filled with foul water; and I took a dip in it. But as I was upthrusted by the water, a person grabbed my hand just in time, before I could go back in and pulled me out. He was the same man — my classmate’s uncle ... I personally could never thank that man, but I do remember him and am grateful to him for saving my life that day."

White-water rafting nearly killed a woman who couldn't surface after her raft tipped over. A friend pulled her out just as she was about to stop breathing. "Only when I felt his hand did I realize that I was being pulled out and just in time too, because I don’t think I could’ve held my breathe any longer and clearly I was working my way to the bottom of the river. I'm pretty sure I would have drowned that day if it hadn't been for him. The look on his face the instant I surfaced is one that will be etched in my memory forever."

According to Live Science, memories of the person's face who saved you are common. In fact, many details of the moment are often recalled.

"Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment," says the report. "It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning — a medical condition termed cardiac arrest. Science has long struggled to define death, and to determine when the precise moment of death occurs. Now though, most doctors consider death more of a process than an event. A person is thought to have died when he stops breathing, his heart stops beating, and his brain activity ceases.

"Previous research suggests about 10 to 20 percent of people who live through cardiac arrest report lucid, well-structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death."

Psychology Today sums it up like this:

"Near death experiences are powerfully transformative experiences. After them, a person's values and attitude to life are completely transformed. People often become less materialistic and more altruistic, less self-oriented and more compassionate. They often feel a new sense of purpose, and their relationships become more authentic and intimate. They report becoming more sensitive to beauty, and more appreciative of everyday things. They also typically report a loss of the fear of death."

Kim Kardashian reported a similar experience after being robbed at gunpoint in Paris.

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