Survivor swears by near-death experience


Alex Brown



March 26, 1996 - Reported in the []. Written by Natalie White. Massachusetts - Four years ago, Alex Brown's small sailboat turtled and for a moment, his life tipped in the balance. Then 11 years old, the Marion youth was learning to sail at the Beverly Yacht Club. When the 9-foot boat flipped, Alex's head somehow slipped into a rope loop hanging off the boom. His instructors saw the overturned boat and managed to detach the mast. But Alex's neck was still stuck in the noose. "Dustin (Boone) was patrolling in a Whaler," Alex recalled, now 15. "I was under the water, under the boat. He grabbed me by the waist and lifted me up. Another instructor, Anne Collins, detached the mast from under the boat. The mast was holding me down. I came up, but I was still turning blue because of the rope." He remembers asking if he was going to die, and then starting to fade away.

"I was getting further and further away from Dustin. It was like I was 10 feet away rather than 2 feet away. It sounded like he was whispering instead of shouting," Alex said. "There was a tunnel behind me. I couldn't see it but I knew it was there. In front of me, there were beams of light, pinkish, yellowish light." He felt as if he were leaving. "I felt like I was drifting away. I only had sensation in the tips of my hands, and the tips of my feet and a little in my face," Alex said. "The rest of my body was just a warm sensation rather than my body."

Despite the brush with death, the rope was cut from his neck and the youngster recovered just fine. Alex said he's not sure exactly what kind of effect the near-death experience has had on his life, except that he has a ready-made topic whenever he's asked to write a dramatic essay for English. That aside, he said, he believes there was something spiritual about the experience. "Some skeptics say that it's just the lack of oxygen to the brain or something like that. I don't believe that. I believe it was more than that," Alex said. "But I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. His mother, Cathy, remembers the nightmares he had afterwards. But the near-death experience actually calmed one of her fears for Alex.

"The moment he was born, I had this feeling that he would die of drowning. I've other children, and I never had any feelings like that. But this experience sailing just canceled that out. I don't feel that way anymore," she said. She said that she was struck at the time of the incident by the detail Alex put into his description of the event. "It just didn't seem like the kind of thing an 11-year-old would say," she said.