Black Press reporter Troy Landreville gives a first-hand account of a near drowning incident at Harrison Lagoon on Sunday afternoon, July 2.
He lay flat on his back along the sandbar, water lapping at his heels.
The same group of friends who pulled him from under his arms to the shoreline fanned him with beach towels, trying to revive him.
I didn’t actually witness the tense scene unfold Sunday afternoon, but decided to call 9-1-1 anyway, assuming my call was one of a multitude they received.
To my surprise (and frustration), I was the only one.
I offered as many details as possible through second-hand information — how beach-goers heard the desperate screams for help emanating from the belly of Harrison Lagoon; how, I was told, two young men were rescued by three strangers who paddled out to them in a pair of inflatable floats and an inner tube; how the head of one of the victims ominously bobbed under the water before he was hauled to the edge of one of the inflatables; how the two victims were laboriously ferried by their rescuers to opposite ends of the lagoon; how, according to their friends, both victims were 21 years old.
“Sir,” the 9-1-1 operator told me. “I need you to get as close to him as possible to tell me how he’s doing.”
I honestly wasn’t sure if he was breathing.
But as I approached, I was relieved to see his chest moving up and down.
Slowly, he turned from his back to his stomach, his face buried in the sand. Clearly, he was overwhelmed with exhaustion.
He pulled himself up to his hands and knees and coughed up white foam.
Then he vomited.
After that he sat up, his head buried between his knees, and motioned his left hand for water.
“No, he can’t drink water,” the operator stressed.
I relayed this to his friend. The victim must have heard me, too, because he gently took the water bottle and poured what was left inside of it over his mop of jet black hair, then over the vomit, pushing it away on the sand.
Directly opposite from us in the water, a group stood over the motionless form of the other victim.
I was much too far away to give an accurate description of how he was doing. So, a Good Samaritan sprinted around the lagoon’s man-made sand bar next to glacier-fed Harrison Lake, to get an assessment.
I stayed on-line with the operator. Much of it was in silence as I waited, listening for sirens. The roughly 15 minute response time was quick, especially considering the distance they had to travel, but at the same time felt like an eternity.
A pair of paramedics made their way along the beach, towards the victim closest to me.
After a brief conversation, he managed to stand up and, flanked by the paramedics, walked towards the ambulance parked on the main strip.
The situation across the water seemed much more dire. An ambulance arrived first, quickly followed by two fire trucks.
All three made their way along the narrow strip of land separating the lagoon from Harrison Lake, leaving clouds of dust in their wake.
The second victim was lifted on a gurney and loaded into an ambulance that sped away.
Details from emergency responders are vague, and there’s no word as of yet on the condition of the two victims. Meanwhile, seconds after saving two lives, their rescuers disappeared into the throng of long weekend visitors who filled the beach encircling the lagoon.
Maybe they just didn’t realize just how heroic of an act this was.
But I know this; they deserve recognition.
And here it is.