In July, “Yu-Gi-Oh!” creator Kazuki Takahashi was found dead after a snorkeling trip in Okinawa Prefecture. More details have now emerged about his death.
According to Stars and Stripes, the American military newspaper, Takahashi died while attempting to rescue people from riptide. US Army officer Major Robert Bourgeau was nominated by his command last month for the Soldier’s Medal for his actions during the July 4 rescue at Mermaid’s Grotto in Onna. Unbeknownst to him, Takahashi attempted to help him, and drowned in the process.
Bourgeau, a scuba diving instructor, met a pair of students at Mermaid’s Grotto at just after 2 PM that day. “The conditions were really, really rough,” he said.
Bourgeau saw a Japanese woman calling for help. She pointed toward her 11 year old daughter and a US soldier who were trapped in a rip current about 100 yards offshore.
The rip current was sucking the pair out, but incoming six-foot waves were crashing on them, creating a whirlpool effect, Bourgeau recalled. Still wearing his running shoes, he and one of his students made their way out to the snorkelers through shallow water while the other student called emergency services.
Bourgeau jumped into the rip current and swam out to the girl, but was quickly exhausted as he brought her to shallow water, he said. Then he encountered her mother who had somehow been sucked into the swirling waters as well.
“I grabbed mom and I grabbed [the girl] and I just kicked for all life,” Bourgeau said.
At some point during the rescue, Takahashi entered the water, Bourgeau said. He said he didn’t see Takahashi during the rescue. Bourgeau’s students did see him though until he disappeared beneath the waves.
“He’s a hero,” Bourgeau said of Takahashi. “He died trying to save someone else.”
Bourgeau said he got the mother and daughter into the shallows and returned for the soldier. He tried to help him out of the whirlpool but was soon out of energy and in danger of drowning himself.
“That was one the hardest things I have ever had to do, I let [the man] go so I could save myself,” he wrote in his witness statement that the Army provided to the newspaper.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Bourgeau said, adding that he thought about his children. His student encouraged his rescue efforts.
Somehow, Bourgeau found his last bit of strength and made it out, he said. He was then able to direct the soldier out of the whirlpool and onto the shore.