Ocean City —
Two former lifeguards rescued swimmers caught in fierce riptides on a north end beach on May 31.
Former Ocean City lifeguard Mike Hamilton and former Manasquan Beach lifeguard Don Walsh were bodysurfing near Stenton Place beach, when they heard cries for help nearby and noticed people struggling in the riptides.
“When we heard the screaming I knew somebody was in trouble. That’s a beach that has problems, like on 9th Street around the jetties,” said Hamilton, 67.
“Mike and I were out there body surfing and we heard these screams coming from the neighboring beach and when we looked over, we saw the victims in trouble and we knew we had to respond or else danger was imminent,” said Walsh, 64.
Riptides pushed a father and two sons from New York City into deeper water and both former lifeguards responded.
Hamilton swam to the father and older son while Walsh rescued the younger boy.
Walsh said he noticed the boy was swallowing water.
“I lifeguarded on the ocean for six summers and I’ve never got to a victim when they were that close to drowning when they were actually swallowing water. That was really scary,” Walsh said.
A young girl on a bodyboard paddled out to save her brother and Walsh used the board to support the young boy. Walsh brought the boy into safety and went back to rescue the girl.
Walsh handed the bodyboard over to Hamilton to assist his rescuing of the father and son.
Walsh called out to anyone on the shore to dial emergency assistance.
By then, three other boys were caught in riptides and Walsh and Hamilton rescued them.
Walsh said it was slow and difficult process trying to swim against the rip currents.
At the time, the beach, which is usually guarded by Ocean City Beach Patrol, was not guarded.
“Typically there would be guards there but because it was Memorial Day weekend they didn’t have enough guards to cover all of the beaches,” Walsh said. “God bless Mike and me for being there because one person could not have handled all of those victims.”
Despite their ages, both men are skilled endurance swimmers and have expertise with water rescue.
Walsh was a lifeguard for six summers when he was in high school and college. He has trained Navy SEALs since 1999. Walsh met Hamilton while participating in ocean mile races. He is the first person from New Jersey to swim around the Isle of Jersey in England, a distance of 41 miles, which he swam at age 60.
Hamilton served on the Ocean City Beach Patrol for a combined 30 years, beginning in the 1960s and from 1988 until 2010.