These lifeguards responded quickly, acted heroically, and helped prevent a tragedy," Governor Raimondo said. "I urge Rhode Islanders to take precautions and be careful while enjoying our beautiful state beaches and parks."
Providence – Three lifeguards rescued two men who swam outside the authorized swimming zone and could no longer keep their heads above water yesterday in Olney Pond at Lincoln Woods State Park, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced today.
Governor Gina M. Raimondo met one of the DEM lifeguards, Andrew Turner, from Pawtucket, today at her most recent Beach Office Hours session, held at Lincoln Woods. "These lifeguards responded quickly, acted heroically, and helped prevent a tragedy," Raimondo said after she presented a citation to Turner. "I urge Rhode Islanders to take precautions and be careful while enjoying our beautiful state beaches and parks."
Here are the incident's facts, according to DEM's Division of Parks and Recreation, which manages Lincoln Woods and more than 25 other state parks, beaches, and campgrounds:
• At about 4 PM yesterday, a lifeguard in a chair at the main beach in front of the pavilion made a "captain's call" by whistling at two men who had ventured beyond the authorized swim area. The two men – who Turner said had "bet each other they could swim" to a peninsula about 300 yards across Olney Pond – ignored the whistles and kept swimming.
• Lifeguard captain Gretchen Thompson, from Cranston, responded to the "captain's call" by running to the shore and calling out to the swimmers, asking them to come back. The swimmers, however, kept swimming. Turner grabbed a lifeguard surfboard and paddled about 150 yards out just as one of the swimmers started thrashing in the water, struggling to stay on the surface. Turner, who will be a junior at Norwich University in Vermont, pulled the swimmer onto the surfboard and paddled back to the beach.
• Meanwhile, a third lifeguard, Corinne Cassidy from Smithfield, had taken another surfboard out to rescue the second swimmer who had swum farther out than the first. By the time Cassidy reached him, he could no longer stay above water and was starting to sink. She held onto the swimmer until the lifeguard captain, Thompson, who'd hopped into the lifeguard boat, arrived. Together, Cassidy and Thompson pulled the swimmer, who was by then unconscious, into the boat and went back to the beach. Town of Lincoln Rescue 1 transported the second man to Rhode Island Hospital where his condition is not known.
About 80 percent of the approximately 3,500 Americans who die every year from non-boating related drownings are male, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lack of swimming ability ranks as one of the biggest factors influencing drowning risk, according to the CDC, whose website states, "Men of all ages, races, and educational levels consistently reported greater swimming ability than women."
For more information about DEM divisions and programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.