Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Marine Unit saves a man from drowning shortly before noon on Wednesday from the beach near the Hammock Resort, the county’s public information office said this afternoon.
The call to dispatch for a possible drowning came in 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 realized they were not strong enough swimmers and returned to shore. The original person in distress and his would-be rescuer were both struggling. (Dispatch notes indicated that a rescuer jumped in the water at 11:36, another at 11:38, but it appears to be the fire rescue paramedics who’d jumped in: a swimmer was rescued by 11:42.)
Hardesty, with a floatation device, made it to the distressed swimmer, who was able to hold on to it unassisted and to remain afloat. The other gentleman said he didn’t need assistance. Marine Rescue Swimmer John Raffo and Hardesty guided and helped pull the two gentlemen 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 salt water,” 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.”
Fire Rescue continued to monitor his vital signs and lung sounds until his vitals normalized from the exertion, 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 percent of lifeguard-related emergencies nationwide.
“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.”
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office also responded but the man had been pulled to shore before the deputy’s arrival.
Fire Chief Michael Tucker praised his crew.
“Every member of our team takes their job very seriously,” he said. “They train rigorously so they are ready for any and all calls.”