Daniel Gutierrez and Cameron Larson eased the Jet Ski up to Bird Island, which sits in the bay near the San Luis Pass cut. A couple of people were stranded on the island because their Jet Ski had been caught by a falling tide and was stuck on the island.

They found out about the people just as they were about to leave after a long day on the “Pass Patrol,” so fortunately were out there after regularly scheduled patrol times. Suddenly, they received a call on the radio about swimmers in distress on the oceanside of the pass.

As they raced under the bridge and toward the beachfront, they scanned for signs of people offshore. On their headset they heard that the West End patrol unit was headed out there as well “code 3” (using lights and sirens to get there as quickly as possible). As they came around the bend onto the beachfront, they spotted two swimmers who were swimming out from shore.

As they came into range, they realized that these swimmers were headed even farther offshore in an attempt to rescue two swimmers that were starting to go under. They also noticed a beach patrol truck pulling up and a rescuer running into the water with fins and a rescue tube. From there things happened quickly.

Daniel drove the Jet Ski close to the first victim, doing a quick practiced turn maneuver which launched Cameron toward the man, using the wake wave to push him the rest of the distance. He saw out of the corner of his eye that Cameron successfully made contact with the man, who they guessed was between 250 pounds to 300 pounds.

But he wasn’t able to do much to help Cameron since he had an issue of his own to deal with. A distance away, the man’s son was starting to go under water. He sped towards the child and grabbed him in the nick of time, swinging him up onto the rescue sled.

Once he made sure the child was OK for the moment, he checked to see if Cameron was OK, which Cameron verified by the universal lifeguard hand signal of forming an “O” by putting your hand on your head.

He returned the signal, and brought the child to Karina Villamil, who was swimming out to assist. Next, he raced to check the first two swimmers, but Mary Stewart had been able to use the PA system in the rescue truck to get them to swim back to shore. Once they were all safe on shore, Daniel and Cameron realized the father and son that they rescued were two of the several hundred people they’d already removed from the water in the prohibited swimming area.

By the time the dust cleared late Sunday night, over the Fourth of July holiday the Beach Patrol moved 22,430 people from danger, responded to 60 medical calls, rescued eight people, and responded to one drowning fatality.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.

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