Off-duty Coast Guard member rescues 2 swimmers off Fire Island

Local EMS and other first responders arrive to the beach at Fire Island, New York, July 24, 2018. That evening, an off-duty Coast Guard member rescued two distressed swimmers. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

Local EMS and other first responders arrive at the beach at Fire Island, New York, July 24, 2018 as an off-duty Coast Guard member rescues two distressed swimmers. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

NEW YORK – An off-duty Coast Guard member rescued two swimmers in distress off the coast of Fire Island, New York, Tuesday evening.

At approximately 8:45 p.m., Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Vanderhaden, an active duty Coast Guard member at Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck, was walking the boardwalk near the Fire Island lighthouse when she noticed two individuals swimming in the water.

At the time, the winds were gusting between 20 and 30 miles per hour and waves of four to six feet were crashing on the shoreline. There was also no lifeguard present.

Vanderhaden watched the two men in the water for about 10-minutes until she knew something was wrong. A bystander on the beach told her that the individuals were calling for help in Spanish. She told that person to call 911 and the local Coast Guard unit.

Vanderhaden then entered the water and began to swim to the furthest swimmer, about 50-yards offshore. Once she arrived, she helped the man to stay afloat and pushed him from behind towards the other troubled swimmer. After they met the second swimmer, Vanderhaden helped guide them together. She made them swim parallel to the shore to avoid the rip-current. After about 30-minutes, the three arrived safely on the beach.

Awaiting EMS checked and released all three individuals.

“Once I realized how much danger they were in, I knew I had to act fast,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Vanderhaden. “My training as a lifeguard and my knowledge as a Coast Guard member prepared me for instances just like this. I am glad I was at the right place at the right time.”

The Coast Guard reminds all swimmers to observe any beach warnings and only to swim in designated areas when a lifeguard is present. Be sure to read how to successfully swim out of and avoid rip-currents.

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