Local lifeguards reflect on tough calls

Lifeguards reflect on tough calls
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 3:24 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn


Sometimes water rescues don’t turn out the way we want them to. It’s an emotional turnout lifeguards deal with more often than we think.

Last summer, Panama City Beach firefighter Garrett Jones responded to several swimmers in distress. When he arrived on scene, the call for five in trouble turned into seven.

”At that point, we had a possible missing submerged swimmer,” Jones said.

During the rescue, firefighters located a body in the water. A young girl was brought onto shore. Jones assisted in CPR.

The other six swimmers made it back safely, while the young girl was rushed to the hospital.

”We were told she was starting to come around, make a recovery, ad then all of a sudden took a turn for the worse,” Jones said.

She died days later.

Jones said losing her was upsetting but he knows he did everything right.

”We all just got to know we did our best job and we did everything we were supposed to do by the T and by the books,” Jones said.

He said lifeguards aren’t in the business of second-guessing.

”It’s never easy. I think people get into this line of work to help and save lives. That’s a great feeling to save a life,” City of Panama City Beach Beach Safety Director Wil Spivey said. “It’s also very tough to see lives being lost especially when it could be avoided.”

Beach safety rescue responder Chaylie Thorn was on a call that went from two swimmers in danger to five.

When she entered the Gulf, she found one of the swimmers holding an unresponsive man. She grabbed him first.

”The man I pulled in originally wasn’t one of the swimmers in distress. He was a bystander that had gone out to help,” Thorn said.

He was a bystander who too got caught in the rip current.

“We found out he actually had a heart attack in the water,” Thorn said.

His heroic efforts cost him his life.

The other four swimmers survived but even just the one loss is heartbreaking.

”You’re interacting with their family during the entire rescue and the medical that comes afterward so it’s pretty rough,” Thorn said.

Unfortunately, lifeguards deal with loss, and they know they need to learn how to handle the emotion.

”Thankfully we have a really good team and all of us have been through the same types of situations so we can relate and we can talk about it and help each other through it,” Thorn said.

This season, look out for those who are looking out for you.

”We’re trying to make sure you go home from your vacation with everybody you came here with,” Spivey said.

Copyright 2021 WJHG. All rights reserved.