Whenever the weather is warm enough, Jim Marsh and Dan Stewart hop into the water and swim laps across Silver Lake. Luckily for one family, that was the case several weeks ago as the pair was in the right place at the right time for a dramatic rescue of two young children and their father.
The September swim started like normal, but after finishing his first lap, Marsh heard screams. An unidentified man was walking in the water carrying two children, and he took a step into unexpectedly deep water as all three swimmers were suddenly in over their heads.
Marsh said the two children were struggling to stay above water, and their weight was keeping their father below the surface. All three of their lives were in jeopardy.
So Marsh and Stewart, the former Wilmington Fire Chief, sprung into action. Marsh shouted to grab Stewart’s attention, and the pair swam over to the distressed family. Stewart brought one of the children towards shore while Marsh took the others as the father clung to his wetsuit until he could stand on his own.
“It was the scariest thing because they were screaming and didn’t know what was happening, didn’t know if they were going to drown,” said Marsh. “The father was a little shell shocked. He was holding on to me for dear life until he could stand up. I think it kind of scared them out of their wits.”
Once the family made it back to the beach, they thanked Stewart and Marsh before heading on their way. Marsh said the father told him it was their first trip to Silver Lake, and they were unaware of the severity of the change in water depth.
Word of the rescue reached members of the Wilmington Fire Department, who praised the work of the duo. Though Marsh said he was terrified in his own right during the rescue, Stewart remained calm.
“Dan was calm after it compared to me. He’s probably done that for years as a firefighter saving people,” said Marsh. “It was the first rescue I’ve ever been a part of. I think I was more traumatized by the whole thing than the kids were.”
No one suffered injuries during the incident. Marsh estimated the children were between four and five years old, and said all three expressed their gratitude on the beach after the rescue.
Marsh said he was grateful the timing worked out as it did since there was no one else in the water or on the beach when the family fell below the surface.
“If we had been swimming by 10 seconds later, or a minute earlier, we would have been in our cars driving off and not knowing what was happening,” said Marsh. “It was just the luck of being there at the right time. I’m happy we were able to help.”