The scariest moment in Below Deck history could have had the worst possible outcome: death.
Ashton Pienaar went overboard this season after the line used to tow the tender wrapped around his ankle and dragged him into the water. The deckhand was just seconds away from his foot being severed by the taut line and bleeding out to death in the water before anyone could reach him to bring him back to safety on the boat.
Fortunately, that didn't happen. That was thanks in part to Brent Freeburg, a cameraman for this season of Below Deck, who, when he saw Ashton fall into the water, immediately sprung into action, dropping his camera and helping to get that tow line loose so that the deckhand’s ankle was free and he could swim to the tender for safety.
When Brent appeared as a surprise guest during the Below Deck Season 6 reunion Tuesday night, he made it clear that it required a team effort to save Ashton's life. "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 explained. "And so it was really collectively all of us that came together."
Ashton embraces Brent as he makes a surprise appearance at the Below Deck Season 6 reunion.
Then Brent broke down exactly what was going through his mind as he made the decision to stop doing his job as a camera operator to step in and try to save Ashton. "Ross was working on undoing a caught line on one of the fenders behind me, and I noticed that Rhylee and Ashton were down on the deck, on the swim deck, and I just saw him go in. And so I immediately went down there, and then basically sussed [out] the situation in moments. How do we get ropes off the, do I dive in? Does somebody dive in, and try to unhook him? No, that's not gonna work. Is there a knife? No," Brent explained. "So I just looked at the cleats, and I realized that that was the solution. And I started doing that, and I think Ross had come down at that point and was just like, 'Let's get these lines off.' And then after we got them off, pick up the camera and start shooting again."
Brent reveals how he saved Ashton's life during the Below Deck Season 6 reunion.
According to Brent, Ashton was under the water for about 25 seconds, "just struggling himself, trying to get untied."
Those must have been the longest 25 seconds of Ashton's life. "I had got to that point where I had mentally prepared that my foot was gonna be ripped off. That's the force that was already around my ankle," Ashton said during the reunion. "So if it was 2 seconds longer, my foot was ripped off."
Brent got visibly emotional as Ashton recounted that part of the accident. "Every time I tell the story, I get all super anxious," Brent said.
Captain Lee praised Rhylee for her quick thinking during the accident. "If Rhylee hadn't said 'man overboard’ in that instance, it was all over," he said.
The Below Deck boss also said this incident is right at the top of the list of the scariest moments in his 35-year yachting career. "It's never, ever happened in my career before, and hopefully it'll never happen again," he shared.
The Stud of the Sea also dubbed Brent "a stud." The two then shared a huge hug.
Ashton ended the reunion by opening up about the enormous impact that the whole experience has had on his life. "It was a massive wake-up call. I think you get complacent, you start forgetting things on deck," he said. "It's a dangerous job we do, and I think it was just a massive wake-up call."
Captain Lee goes in-depth on how Brent and the rest of the crew prevented this accident from becoming a tragedy, below.