Longtime friends Kate Hunter, Georgia Springate and Lily Cox came to the rescue of two swimmers who ran into trouble last Friday evening (Aug. 18) after jumping off Crescent Beach pier. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Girls, 11, rescue pair in water

Longtime South Surrey friends avert potential tragedies

A trio of friends in South Surrey are being lauded for their lifesaving skills after pulling two struggling swimmers from the water this month.

Kate Hunter, Lily Cox and Georgia Springate – all 11 years old and members of the Crescent Beach Swim Club – were at the beach on the evening of Aug. 18 when they realized two swimmers, a young woman and a teenager, were in distress.

“We were just pier jumping, then one person asked us to help this woman to the ladder,” Lily recounted. “We had just jumped in.”

As Lily towed the woman to the pier ladder – in what she described as a “pretty cold, strong current” – Kate swam to help a teenager who was clearly struggling after having jumped in wearing a T-shirt and leggings.

Once the woman was safe, Lily and Georgia headed to assist Kate.

Initally trying to also bring the teenager to the pier ladder, the current proved too strong, so the girls headed for the beach instead.

“We were getting tired,” Lily told Peace Arch News. It was cold and we were pretty far out.”

Lily’s mom, Julie Cox, was among parents who saw the events unfold from the shore.

“The current was pulling (the younger swimmer),” Cox said. “She was out for a fair amount of time. It was evident that she was going down. The second time (she went under), it was that little bit too long. That’s when the girls all circled around her.”

Cox said it was clear that most people at the beach didn’t realize the potential tragedy unfolding in front of them.

“If the girls hadn’t been in the water, I don’t know how (the distressed swimmers) would’ve gotten that assistance.”

The three friends learned what to do in such a situation through CBSC’s junior lifeguard program, which is offered for 10- to 14-year-olds through July and August.

Georgia’s mom, Cynthia Springate said too many who visit to enjoy the waters are oblivious to its dangers.

“A lot of people don’t know how strong this current can be,” she said. “If someone’s not watching…”

Everyone should know how to swim, she said – “and when they should or shouldn’t.” The risks are just too high.

“Our kids put themselves in some peril to save people who weren’t making good decisions about water safety. People have died trying to rescue people.”

In a newsletter distributed to club members Aug. 20 – titled ‘When Bravery Meets Preparation” – following word of the girls’ efforts, president Bob Armstrong also emphasizes the importance of having such skills.

“Sometimes events unfold, people react and all that water safety training comes in handy and saves a life,” Armstrong writes.

Thursday, the girls said they weren’t scared, and simply acted on instinct.

“In the moment, we weren’t really thinking what to do,” said Kate.

Armstrong describes the girls as “our newest local heroes.”

“There were plenty of adults on hand but it was these three girls that assessed the situation, jumped in and prevented what could have been a catastrophe.

“We are extremely proud of you.”