FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. — (Note: The video above is from a related report.)
Two people are safe and sound after Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Marine Unit saved them from drowning late Wednesday morning.
The incident happened shortly before noon at the beach near the Hammock Resort.
Authorities received reports of a possible drowning at 11:31 a.m. “after employees of the resort could hear calling for help out on the beach and activated 911,” said Fire Rescue Lt. Drew Hardesty, the first to arrive on the scene. “On scene, I noticed three beachgoers in the water and attempting to assist the (initial) man needing help who was past the break and in about 10 feet of water.”
Two of the good Samaritans who were attempting to help realized they were not strong enough swimmers and returned to shore. At this time, a man and his "would-be" rescuer were both struggling, authorities said.
Fortunately, Hardesty was able to make it to the distressed swimmer using a floatation device. Marine Rescue Swimmer John Raffo and Hardesty guided and helped pull the two men through the surf and back to solid ground.
“The (initial) gentleman was put in a beach lounge chair where the paramedics looked him over extensively as we now fear a secondary type of drowning from aspirating too much saltwater,” Hardesty said. “The gentleman was adamant that he was fine and did not want to be transported to the hospital, and just wanted to relax.”
Following the rescue, crews continued to monitor his vital signs and lung sounds until his vitals normalized and he was stable.
“He was extremely thankful and happy to be out of the water,” Hardesty said. “He told us that he was swimming and became caught in the rip current while attempting to swim back in. After struggling to make any headway, he became very tired and realized he needed the help or he feared the worse.”
Rip currents account for 80% of lifeguard-related emergencies nationwide, according to Flagler County Fire Rescue.
“We got lucky today that there are some incredible people out there that are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to help a total stranger,” Hardesty said. “I fear if it were not for them the outcome would have been much worse.”
After the incident, Fire Chief Michael Tucker praised and thanked his crew for their amazing work.
“Every member of our team takes their job very seriously,” he said. “They train rigorously so they are ready for any and all calls.”