By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A Florida vacation heralded a Laurel man as a hero after his quick actions saved a drowning couple.
Josh Weaver, the 20-year-old son of Wayne Weaver and Michelle Weaver of London, had just come out of the ocean on Saturday to put his sunglasses away. Weaver accompanied his girlfriend and her family to Destin for a week at the beach and was waiting to check into their beach-front condo when he heard someone calling for help.
“The beach was red-flagged due to the riptide currents,” Weaver said. “I saw two people way out in the water.”
Their cries for help prompted the young Laurel man to borrow a ‘boogie board’ from a boy at the beach so he could help the unknown couple.
“I tied the board to me and swam out to them. It was the hardest swim I’ve ever had,” he added. “I was swimming against the waves, so it was hard.”
Weaver, who is an avid swimmer and worked as a lifeguard at the Levi Jackson Park pool for three years, said the couple — a male and female — were “about 65 yards” from the shore and were about 15 feet from one another.
“It took me about 5 or 6 minutes to go out there to them because the waves were against me and I had to go under them,” Weaver said. “I could see the woman and I could tell the man was trying to get to her, but he couldn’t. She looked like she was in worse shape than he was so I went to her first,” Weaver said. “Then I got to him and we put her on the board and he held onto her. She was unresponsive, but he could still talk, although he was exhausted.”
Despite his prior lifeguard training and experience, Weaver said the swim through the ocean was a battle of his own strength.
“I kept thinking, ‘I’ve never been this far out in the ocean before. I hope I’m not the third person pulled out by these riptides.’ Then I remembered something that Steve House, who was a lifeguard at the pool for years, always told us. He said if we were ever in the ocean in a riptide, to swim horizontally. I did that, and it started working,” Weaver said.
By the time Weaver reached a level where he could stand in the water, a group of people had already formed at the shoreline and lifeguards were on hand to assist the three people.
“We had to carry the woman in, and we got her on the beach and rolled her onto her side to the life-saving position so we could get out some of the water she’d taken in,” the Laurel native said. “Then the lifeguards came and put an oxygen mask on her and the ambulance came and took her to the hospital.”
The man rescued by Weaver said the woman was his 24-year-old wife and that the couple had been in the water when a strong current jerked them out to sea. While the two attempted to reach each other and swim back to shore, the large and frequent waves hampered their progress.
“I was scared for them and for myself,” Weaver said. “I’ve always loved the water and go swimming in the lake and was a lifeguard, but that was just at the pool. I tried to get the man to help me get us in but he was exhausted from fighting the riptide and he couldn’t do much.”
Weaver explained the lifeguard stations along the beach front were spaced out and the particular location where the couple was pulled out to sea was not near one of those stations. Fellow beach goers, he said, told him afterward they heard the man’s cries for help but either they were not confident enough to battle the currents or did not know what to do to help.
“The lifeguards told me I probably saved their (the unknown couple) lives, then they came back and said the woman was in critical condition. I just hope she gets okay,” Weaver said.
Although he risked his own life in order to save an unknown couple from probable drowning, Weaver said he still wonders where he got the strength to perform the life-saving act.
“People kept asking me if I was a lifeguard,” he said. “I told them no, I was just a guy from Kentucky.”