PORTLAND — Beachgoers in Oregon pulled a struggling swimmer to shore by forming a human chain after she and seven others were stranded on a rocky outcropping during high tide.
Five people in the group remained on the rocks at Fogarty Creek State Park near Depoe Bay and were rescued one-by-one by a Coast Guard helicopter Saturday, but three opted to take their chances in the surf, according to witness Ray Felle.
Felle, of Portland, who recorded the drama on his phone, said the girl was separated from the two others in the water and struggling when the people on the beach stepped in.
"They worked together as a team, it was more like they were a rescue crew and they weren't, they were just kids," said Felle, 67.
"These people handled themselves very well in doing what they needed to do to save this girl.
She would have died if they had not put their heads together and responded like they did," he added.
The group had been running between high ground and the rock when high tide came in and trapped them, Felle said.
Felle said he had gone to the beach that day to teach his two young godchildren about ocean safety.
"That's the only message that I think should get out there: Pay attention to the tides," he said.
The five who were rescued by the helicopter ranged in age from 18 to 30 years old, officials said.
Depoe Bay Fire Chief Joshua Williams said the struggling swimmer regained consciousness when rescuers arrived and was transported to a local hospital.
Williams said the incoming tide would have swept the people off the rocks within a half hour.
The dramatic rescue comes just days after the Coast Guard announced it would close the helicopter station in Newport — the same station where the rescue helicopter came from. The station is about 15 miles north of the Fogarty Creek rocks.
It would have taken a helicopter an hour to get from North Bend, another Coast Guard station, to the stranded beach goers.
A local group said it has collected 10,000 signatures on a petition to keep the Newport station open.