Firefighter tries to rescue tourist off Miami Beach
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Authorities say a man has drowned after he and a friend went swimming and found themselves caught in a rip current over the weekend.
Miami Beach Police identified the deceased Monday morning as George Knott, a tourist from Sacramento California.
Miami Beach Fire Rescue responded to the pair of swimmers in distress in Miami Beach, between 75th to 78th Streets near Collins Avenue, around 7:30 p.m., Sunday. His companion was described by neighbors as an athletic woman who knew how to swim in the rip current. She has not been identified.
The pair had been working out on the beach and decided to swim in the ocean to cool off when the rip current overtook them.
Bystanders on the beach heard the swimmers screaming for help, according to Adonis Garcia, spokesperson for the Miami Beach Fire Department. "There were some people on the scene that heard the victims that were saying they were having problems and immediately they called rescue, and we responded because we have a station in very close proximity," Garcia said, "so we had a very fast response."
While waiting for rescue crews, one man on the beach who heard the screams for help dove into the water after the couple. He too became ensnared by the waves.
When firefighters arrived to the scene, two rescue swimmers had to go after the Good Samaritan. "He looks over at me and tells me, 'Look, I don't think I'm going to make it,'" said Thomas Vinuela, a Miami Beach Firefighter rescue swimmer. Vinuela said he then told the man, "I just need you to hold onto the buoy, and I'm going to hold on with you at the same time. My partner is going to be here with us and my crew off shore is going to pull us in."
Firefighters were able to pull the other swimmer from the water, while the female had swam to shore on her own. "Immediately started working the victims," said Garcia. "You don't have much time to worry about people when someone is dying, so we immediately started working that victim and worked that victim all the way to the hospital."
Rescuers said Knott was not breathing when he was rescued from the water. Crews transported him to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he later died.
Vinuela, who went into the water to save the swimmers, was also transported to Mt. Sinai as a precaution. "The buoy slipped from under him, and I had almost lost grip of it, so I grabbed it and handed him back the buoy," said Vinuela. "As I handed it back to him, by accident, that's when the safety rope, this rope, wrapped around my neck."
Vinuela became tangled up in the rope and buoy while trying to save the man. "I didn't want to tell him to let go of the buoy because, at that time, he would have no safety, he would have nothing to get himself out, and this is all he had," he said. "It had apparently wrapped around this way, so when he's pulling, it starts pulling me down, and all I can do is grab onto it with this hand to pull it off my neck."
Focusing on breathing and his patient, Vinuela was able to pull himself and the man to firm sand with the help of his fellow rescuers. "And he comes down the last time, and I finally have some time to come up for a breath," he said.
Firefighters believe the couple was just out for an evening swim and the rip currents proved too challenging. It is unknown how long the couple was out in the water.
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