Practice makes perfect: Lifeguard says drills helped rescue of swimmer off Burying Hill
Updated 1:33 pm, Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Why a woman entered the water at Sherwood Island State Park, fully clothed, and tried to swim to Burying Hill Beach, remains a mystery after the Monday incident.
People seeking relief at the beach from the day’s sweltering weather spotted the woman about 10 a.m., and were concerned that she appeared to be trying to swim “pretty far out” from shore, said Kaitlyn Mello, waterfront director for the town’s Parks and Recreation Department.
In fact, Dan Devito, the department’s operations supervisor, said the woman was more than 100 yards from land, noting that the state- and town-owned beaches are linked are connected by a canal.
“She swam out and was coming to our side,” he said.
Mello said the woman did not appear to be in distress, but added, “She wasn’t swimming any specific stroke.”
She said two lifeguards on dutyat Burying Hill “boarded out” to the woman because she was “way past the swimming buoys” and in an area where boats travel, leaving her in potential danger.
She said when the lifeguards — Myelle Lansat of Westport and Caroline Collins of Weston — got to the woman, they asked her if she needed help.
“She said, ‘Yes, I do,” to the lifeguards, according to Mello. “So they flipped her onto a board and took her to shore at Burying Hill.”
Lansat, 19, who has been a lifeguard for four summers, said the incident was her first rescue of a swimmer. “Our training kicked in,” said the Staples High School graduate, now a sophomore at Syracuse University. She said the lifeguards regularly practice emergencies like the rescues.
She said they had just arrived at the beach Monday morning when beachgoers alerted the lifeguards about the swimmer’s apparent plight.
Lansat said the woman didn’t appear to be struggling and her head never went under water, but she was very far from shore so she and Collins, 16, decided to check it out and got on their rescue boards.
She said once they got to the woman, she did say she needed help, but was “totally alert and conscious and able to hold unto the board.” Lansat said, adding the woman was able to follow all the lifeguards’ instructions. “When we got closer to the beach, others helped us get her to shore,” she added. This included help by police and EMS, she said.
From there, the woman was taken to Norwalk Hospital. Her name was not released by officials.
Mello said the woman was clothed — wearing a tee-shirt, shorts and sneakers. She said it’s unusual for someone to swim wearing sneakers. “They walk the tideline in sneakers, but not to swim,” she said.
At Sherwood Island State Park, a maintenance worker for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection saw the woman enter the water there and she appeared to be struggling, said Cyndy Chnaca, DEEP public information officer.
She said the worker entered the water in a bid to help her, but before he could, she was brought to shore by the lifeguards from Burying Hill.