Lifeguard Robert Haupt was in his tower when he noticed a woman walking toward the jetty calling her son. He followed her gaze to see a 6-year-old boy on the rock jetty. Unexpectedly, the boy jumped off the rocks into the rip current.
Haupt went into action, quickly calling on the radio for assistance and running out to the now struggling boy. Just as the 6-year-old was starting to go under water, Robert got to him.
Lifeguard Michelle Gomez was working the 17th Street rock jetty a few days earlier. She went to move some swimmers on the east side of the jetty. While moving them, she heard a commotion on the west side, so she ran over to check.
She noticed earlier that the rocks between 17th and 21st streets had caused a mild rip current to run in the middle of the beach. Since she knew she’d left the area near the pier clear of swimmers, she immediately checked the area of that unusual rip current. Sure enough, she spotted two heads in the rip. They were far apart.
She quickly called for help and went in.
The first person she got to was a man. She got the man safely onto her rescue tube and left it with him. She then swam to the other person, a child, and held his head up while giving the hand signal we use for “need assistance.”
A lifeguard truck arrived. Seeing the signal, both of the supervisors jumped in to help. Another person had gotten caught in the rip current while all this was happening. Three rescues were made. Three people were safely returned to shore without aspirating water.
A 17-year-old was with his buddies on the beach. It was late in the day. They had been drinking a few beers. One of them, a non-swimmer, decided to go out in the water on the west side of the jetty. He didn’t realize he was moving as the lateral current pulled him gently parallel to the beach toward the jetty.
As he neared the jetty, a stronger rip current caught him and began to pull him away from shore. The rip current had gouged a trench along the bottom. Suddenly, he couldn’t stand up. The lifeguard had already gone off duty. He began to drown.
Fortunately, Adam Privratsky, an Eagle Scout, saw him. Adam knew the first rule is to not go in for someone drowning. He looked around and saw the rescue box the Galveston Island Beach Patrol maintains on the end of the jetty. He quickly opened the box, grabbed the ring buoy and attached throw bag. He heaved the ring buoy to the teen and held the rope. Then he pulled the teen up onto the rocks. Aside from minor cuts, the guy was fine. Scared, but fine.
These are just a few examples of the type of heroics that happen during a typical week in the summer.
Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.