Rescue at Georgiaville Pond prevents drowning

Rescue at Georgiaville Pond prevents drowning

Seven signs at Georgiaville Pond label roped off areas of the water as “no swim zones.” Still, locals say swimmers have always tried to go beyond the ropes toward the island. (Breeze photo by Jackie Roman)

SMITHFIELD – Had it been five or six minutes later, the man wouldn’t have made it, Councilor Suzy Alba says, reflecting on the whirlwind of events that led to a perfectly timed rescue at Georgiaville Pond on the evening of Aug. 19.

Alba set out that Saturday to enjoy a late summer afternoon with her husband, Adam Stanley, and their infant son. By the time the family had their fill of sun, it was approximately 6 p.m., right when the beach is scheduled to close.

Alba’s boat was heading toward the mainland when she saw two men swimming out into the depths of the pond, toward the island that a 19-year-old man died trying to reach in early June.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” Alba warily told her husband.

Back on shore, recreation supervisor and former lifeguard Mike Either was closing up the bathroom facilities and cleaning up for the day. He had sent all the lifeguards home and was debating taking a swim himself when he noticed the same two men swimming out toward the island.

“It just didn’t look right,” Either says.

The next two minutes occurred in a blur.

Alba called out to Either, asking him to call the two men back to shore. Just as she yelled out, Alba saw a splash out of the corner of her eye.

“The gentleman went under water, it was very scary,” Alba said.

One of the swimmers, a 40-year-old man from out of town, had grown tired and was struggling to stay afloat. His 20-year-old swimming companion tried to coach him to float on his back, to no avail.

Alba’s husband, Stanley, turned the boat around and started heading toward the drowning swimmer, stopping near enough to throw out a life preserver.

Either had also seen the swimmer dip beneath the water’s surface.

“I grabbed a safety buoy and immediately swam out to him,” Either said.

The two rescue teams reached the man at the same moment. Either grabbed onto the drowning swimmer and, along with the other man, held onto Alba’s boat as it moved toward shore.

“These are emergency situations you can never expect or prepare for, but our instincts kicked in and our primary task was to get the man to safety. We were just happy to be able to help make the rescue and that the individual survived,” Stanley said.

Once the group was safe on shore, an ambulance and members of the Fire Department checked the swimmer’s vitals and released him.

“He seemed dazed. That’s why we tell everyone not to swim out there, because it’s deceiving,” Either said.

Witnessing the near drowning startled Alba, who previously voted to add safety upgrades at the pond.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “I think people underestimate the difficulty that it is to swim out there.”

To reassess safety at Georgiaville Pond, Alba met with Councilor Michael Lawton, Town Manager Randy Rossi, Police Chief Richard St.Sauveur Jr., and Fire Chief Robert Seltzer on Aug. 21.

The group agreed upon the following improvements:

• Beginning Aug. 22, lifeguards and supervisors began working increased hours to ensure that the beach area was being monitored with trained staff in the case of an emergency.

• New 20 by 30 inch signs warning of drowning have been installed along the shoreline.

• The council will be working on possible ordinance revisions in an effort to prepare for the next beach season.

On Sept. 5, Rossi presented Alba, Stanley, and Either with certificates of appreciation for their quick action.

“I want to extend how grateful I am to these three individuals,” Rossi said.

Recreation Supervisor Mike Either holds his certificate of appreciation, which he received after assisting in a rescue at Georgiaville Pond on Aug. 19. Either is pictured alongside Recreation Director Robert Caine.