Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Firefighters, lifeguards attempted rescue of doomed Lutz swimmers

ANNA MARIA ISLAND — West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter Nathan Bergbom held the woman's head above the water and told the other swimmers not to let her go.

A man lying on his stomach on a raft, exhausted and out of breath, had both hands looped beneath the unresponsive woman's arms as two others tried to keep her afloat.

The swimmers had been trapped in a rip current for several minutes before Bergbom arrived, and they were spent. Bergbom noticed one of the swimmers, an older gentleman, was also struggling.

"We need to keep her head out of the water," Bergbom said. "Keep kicking."

Moments later, fellow firefighter Jeff Phillips arrived. He suggested they push the woman onto the raft. After two attempts, the man on the raft fell off. The other swimmers were too weak to lift her.

As they contemplated their next move, lifeguard Geoff Cordes swam up to them with a long board. They were about 50 yards from shore.

"Let me have her," Cordes said to Bergbom as he handed off his 12-foot board. Cordes grabbed the woman and swam her to waiting medics.

Bergbom, Phillips and the three swimmers grabbed the board and began their slow paddle back to shore where minutes earlier, a bystander had pulled the woman's brother from the current.

The woman, 71-year-old Josefina Pardo of Lutz, and her brother, Gerardo Hernandez, both died Thursday afternoon from cardiac arrest, officials said.

Pardo's husband and son, the swimmers in the water who had tried to save her, survived. Their names were not released.

The Pardos had recently returned from a cruise their three sons had bought for them. Hernandez was visiting from Cuba, Manatee County sheriff's officials said.

They all knew how to swim, but even Olympic swimmers are unable to swim against rip currents, said Jay Moyles, chief of Marine Rescue for Manatee County.

A rip current is a strong channel of water that flows seaward from near the shore and pulls swimmers out toward sea.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 100 drownings occur every year in the United States due to rip currents. More than 80 percent of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip currents.

If you get sucked into a rip current, do not panic, Moyles said. Do not fight it. Try to stay afloat and call for help. Good swimmers should swim lateral to shore and swim out of the current.

The National Weather Service had issued a rip current advisory on Thursday, Moyles said.

The water off Anna Maria Island where the incident occurred is a popular destination for beachgoers. There is no lifeguard on duty on that stretch of beach, which is in city limits.

Cordes, the lifeguard who responded, made his way on an all-terrain vehicle from Manatee Public Beach about 3 miles away.

When Bergbom, the firefighter, arrived, he recognized the terrain instantly. He grew up there and swam in the same spot countless times.

"I had been in the exact same water in the same conditions and never really thought twice about it," Bergbom said. "It's a little humbling."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

Firefighters, lifeguards attempted rescue of doomed Lutz swimmers 08/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 13, 2010 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan

    War

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  2. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    Jason Jerome Springer, 39, is accused of threatening to kill a U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich, according to a federal indictment.  |Hernando County Sheriff's Office photo]
  3. Editorial: Tampa Electric customers should not pay for utility's fatal misjudgments

    Editorials

    There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers. Monetary considerations will not begin to …

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers.
  4. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity

    Corporate

    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  5. Money is the issue as Hillsborough strains to fix school air conditioners

    K12

    TAMPA — With more than 200 repair requests tumbling in every day, school officials in Hillsborough County are broadening their circle of air conditioning mechanics as they struggle to control a debilitating cycle of breakdowns and sweltering classrooms.

    Hillsborough school officials want to expand the number of contractors who work on broken school air conditioning systems. But it all gets rolled into a workload that has increased by 40 percent since 2011. "With no increase in budget, no increase in equipment and no increase in manpower, and as the equipment gets older and needs more maintenance, this is going to continue to grow," said Robert Weggman, general manager of maintenance." [iStockphoto.com
]