GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 9, 2012

Rockport recognizes teen beach rescuers

By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — ROCKPORT — Two Rockport lifeguards rescued swimmers from drowning this summer, saving lives at Front Beach and Old Garden Beach. And now, town leaders have officially extended their thanks.

Rockport Police Sgt. Timothy Frithsen, who oversees the Red Cross certified Rockport lifeguards, said the lifeguards, Erin Pratt and Jacob Ward, demonstrated “heroic efforts in saving two lives” this summer.

“It’s very rare that you get to see so many saved,”said Frithsen, “It is very much something to be proud of.”

The town recognized the two at a recent selectmen’s meeting, presenting the lifeguards with plaques and recognizing them for their service.

For Pratt, the honor marked her second time receiving an award for saving a life. The Rockport High School senior had also rescued a swimmer last summer when working as a lifeguard in Gloucester.

The Red Cross hailed Pratt as a youth hero this past March for last summer’s rescue. In that case, Pratt had noticed a woman in distress at Good Harbor Beach, while working as a lifeguard at a nearby pool last year. She ran across the street, entered the water and pulled the woman — who was crying for help — back to shore. She then noticed two children on a boogie board who were also struggling against the riptide, swam back out — and pulled them to safety, as well.

This past summer, having switched to lifeguarding at Old Garden Beach, Pratt saw a diver in distress floundering and gasping for air, according to Frithsen. Pratt grabbed her rescue board, then swam out and plucked the diver out of the water. Pratt radioed police on land and requested an ambulance for the diver who was transported to the hospital because of continued difficulty breathing after being pulled from the water, according to Frithsen.

Rockporter Jacob Ward, meanwhile, performed his own rescue at Front Beach less than a week after a man died in the same waters.

Ward was working a lifeguarding shift on Aug. 10, when he noticed a teen having difficulty swimming out to the floating dock moored about 100 yards from the beach. The tide was high, creating a farther distance between beach and dock, and the boy turned around to swim back to shore without resting on the floating platform, Ward said.

“So I decided to keep an eye on him,” Ward said.

When Ward saw the teenage boy begin to thrash and wave his arms in the water, he sprinted out to the teen, dropping his radio at the water’s edge and running without stopping to grab supplies.

“I didn’t take a board or a flotation device with me because I couldn’t waste time,” Ward said. Ward swam the teenager to land, squeezing his hand as the teen slipped in and out of consciousness. Ward said he never really had time to feel afraid as he rescued the teen and radioed for ambulance support.

When medical personnel lifted the teen into the ambulance and closed the doors behind him, they assured Ward the boy would be OK in a day or two. Ward passed the message on to the teen’s mother and comforted her as she sat crying in the sand, he said.

“The mother was in tears, hugging me and thanking me up and down,” Ward said. “My boss (Frithsen) said that if I wasn’t there he (the teen) would have died — so it was a good thing I was.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.