Onslow Beach lifeguard saves three from riptide

17 Jul 2000 | Lance Cpl. Zachary A. Crawford

She was out in the water checking the tide for the day as her partner was on the coastline unaware of what was about to happen. She raised her head to see not only a frightened group of kids, but three young children that were tired and in serious danger.

This lifeguard, a Marine sergeant, working with the Onslow Beach Lifeguard Detachment here, single-handedly rescued the three young swimmers July 17.

Sergeant Ryan E. Feder of Portland, Maine, and head lifeguard at Onslow Beach, was doing her daily 'rip tide' check when she witnessed three distressed children approximately 30 feet out into the water.

The three kids, a 13-year-old boy and girl and a seven-year-old boy on a boogie board, were caught in a 'rip tide' and couldn't make it to shore.

The 'rip tide', or undertow, is formed by strong ocean tides that are caused by strong winds usually associated with an intense storm. The current builds up a sand bar close to the shore and then the water builds up between the bar and the coast until it has to go somewhere. It will then cut away a channel through the sand bar. The water between the sand bar and the shore starts to move through the channel and back out to sea at fast velocities causing the 'rip tide.'

"When I went into the water to check the tide, I saw some kids waving their hands and shouting for help," said Feder, who has only been a certified lifeguard for three months.

Feder then swam to the kids, gave her safety buoy to the older boy, grabbed hold of the boogie board on which the younger boy was sitting, and had the girl wrap her arms around her. The boys helped her kick to shore, Feder said.

"I had told them that my feet could touch the bottom and that we were going to be just fine," explained Feder. "I reassured myself as well that we would be alright."

According to Feder, when she finally reached shore the boys were fine. However, the girl was having trouble breathing because she swallowed some water. Feder said she had to talk to the girl to calm her down.

"I got her to finally tell me what her name was and she squeezed my hand to show me she was okay before the ambulance came," said Feder. "I later went to the hospital to see her and saw that she was laughing and talking and seemed to be in pretty good condition."

Feder's staff noncommissioned officer in charge wasn't the least bit surprised Feder made the rescue.

"She is the strongest swimmer I have out here," said Staff Sgt. William E. Bodette of Clearwater, Fla.  "She is exactly the type of lifeguard I need out here to keep everyone safe. Everybody trusts her and her judgment; especially me."

Feder said there are things people need to know to keep their kids safe at the beach.

"Parents must watch their children while they are in the water," Feder explained. "They should never go further out than waist high water, swim between the lifeguard cones and pay attention to the color of the flags. If they don't know what the flag colors mean, they should ask any of the lifeguards. And above all, parents are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their children's safety by knowing where they are at all times."