Two teenage lifeguards from Pennsylvania — on their summer vacation in Atlantic City — rescued a 36-year-old man and his 11-year-old son from the surf Thursday night.
Thornton, Pa., residents Nick Smart, 17, and his brother Dillon Smart, 15, serve as lifeguards at an apartment complex in West Chester, Pa., but were off this week as the family came to the resort for their annual family vacation. The brothers were surfing off North Carolina Avenue when they spotted a man and his son holding onto a pole in the jetty.
At first Nick said he didn’t think much of it, but Dillon surfed over to check them out. Then Nick said he saw the man’s wife waving frantically from the shore and he knew they were in trouble.
The water was about six or seven feet deep, and Dillon threw the father and son his surfboard to help them stay afloat while Nick came over to join him.
Nick said he saw both were bleeding from their stomachs as the waves kept crashing them into the pole. The father was holding his crying son to protect him and told the Smart boys he was exhausted and couldn’t move his legs any longer.
Dillon said he helped both of them onto his surfboard and guided them off the pole. Nick then took the son onto his surfboard and together the brothers brought the father and son back to shore.
Dillon said the father was significantly bigger than him but he was able to bring him in quickly. The whole process took a mere minute, Nick said, as the brothers relied on their lifeguard training and communicated well together.
“We’ve been in these situations before but it wasn’t ever this bad,” he said. “We knew what to do. We didn’t panic at all. We worked really quickly.”
The city’s Beach Patrol was called to the scene but the boys had already brought the family to shore. The child did not have any injuries, but the father was brought to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Campus for observation.
Beach Patrol Chief Rod Aluise said lifeguards and EMTs placed the man on a headboard and transported him to the hospital. He was released later that night, Aluise said, adding he was just a little stunned.
The identity of the victims was not released.
Lifeguards were not present on the beach at the time of the incident, which occured at 7:15 p.m., Aluise said. The chief cautioned that people need to be aware when lifeguards are on duty, which at most beaches is between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., he said.
“Don’t enter the water unless you see a lifeguard on the beach,” he said. “People must obey that for everyone’s safety.”
Dillon said this is his first summer as a lifeguard compared to three by his older brother, and he said he wants to pursue it as a career when he’s older. Their father, Bo Smart, said they feel really good about what they did.
“We’re on top of the world right now,” he said
The two boys got a chance to meet Aluise on Friday on the beach and he talked to them about the profession and the differences between being a lifeguard in a pool and at a beach.
“We’re always grateful when there’s a Good Smaritan who helps someone in need,” Aluise said.
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