ST. PETE BEACH — Even the rescuers need rescuing sometimes.
That's what happened Monday afternoon when a group of bystanders pitched in to help save a 16-year-old boy — and his would-be rescuers — after he was pulled under and then pushed out by strong currents, according to the St. Pete Beach Fire Department.
"It was an all-out effort," said Lt. Lori Lyons. "It was awesome."
The first call to 911 came in around 2:42 p.m. Multiple witnesses called to report seeing the teenager yelling for help after he wandered too far off Upham Beach.
He was swimming off the channel behind Woody's Waterfront at 7308 Sunset Way when strong currents started to drag him under and carry him away from land, Lyons said.
A 16-year-old girl swam out to help the boy. He went under again, and she dove in after him.
"She grabbed him as he was going under water," Lyons said, "and she was caught in the current."
The teen rescuer was able to keep his head above water but couldn't keep them both from being pulled out toward open water.
Then two surfers joined the effort, Lyons said. They swam out to aid the two teenagers, who were able to use their surfboards to stay afloat. But now all four were caught in the current and being swept away about 150 yards from the beach.
Then two girls on a jet ski showed up and gave the swimmers a ride back to shore, according to the fire department.
By that time rescue boats from the St. Pete Beach Fire Department, the St. Pete Beach Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Coast Guard and Eckerd College arrived.
A St. Pete Beach police boat gave the two surfers a ride back to shore. Everyone made it back safely, Lyons said.
"It was a serious situation," she said. "The boy said if she didn't rescue me he would have drowned."
The Fire Department was not able to identify the two swimmers, citing federal privacy laws. The teenagers were both taken to Palms of Pasadena Hospital and were reported to be in fair condition.