Florida man pulls struggling swimmer out of rough ocean waters

A man is recovering after being pulled out of rough water on Sunday.

According to Captain Laura Warner with Volusia County Beach Safety (VCBS), the 22-year-old man has been awake and is stable but remains intubated.  

FOX 35 News was the first to talk with the Ocala, Florida man behind the rescue, Dwayne Minchew.  According to Minchew, there were several people pointing at the water on Daytona Beach. At first, he wasn’t sure what everyone was panicking about until he saw the young man floating face down.

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"He was just getting further and further, he was just rolling over the waves," Minchew said. 

He explained the man had turned a grayish-blue color when he found him, was limp and lifeless. Minchew, 48, said he struggled against the waves and fought to keep the man above water. At times, wondering if he would be the ocean’s next victim. 

"It was getting to where I had to push him a little bit up in the air and finally I flipped him over and once I seen the foam come out and stuff I thought I better start swimming hard even for my own safety," Minchew said

.Minchew tells FOX 35 News it took him at least 15 minutes to swim out to the man and bring him back to shore, fighting the rough waves the entire way.  A red flag warning, signaling dangerous rip currents, was in effect. 

"They think of the ocean as a pool. Just because they are familiar with the water, it’s in fact very, very different. It’s very, very dangerous," said Capt. Warren. 

Over the course of two days, VCBS said more than 150 people were pulled from the ocean.  Crews said the rip current warnings will remain in place throughout the week and possibly into Memorial Day weekend. 

"The bottom of the ocean floor is not just completely flat. There are times there can be waist-deep water and you take one foot over the right and you are in over your head," Capt. Warren explained.

In one 911 recording, a caller said there wasn’t a single lifeguard in sight.  The caller was afraid the young man was going to die. 

"This guy is going to die. He’s going to die. There’s no lifeguard out here or anything," the caller screamed.

Two others called 911 after Minchew brought the man to shore.  Other visitors began chest compressions on the man, continuing until emergency services arrived. 

FOX 35 News asked Minchew how he could swim so well, considering the strong currents. He attributes his laborious job and being a native of South Florida. He said he grew up in the ocean and knows when it’s safe to get in and what to expect. He also said adrenaline got him through the tough swim back to the beach.

"If you’re not a swimmer, you shouldn’t go any further than waist-deep," Minchew warned. 

VCBS echoes the same message, reminding swimmers to stay where they are able to touch the bottom and to always swim in front of a lifeguard tower. As for those rescuing people who may be struggling in the water, Capt. Warren said to first call 911. After help has been established, those jumping in the water are urged to bring some sort of flotation device like a surfboard to help the swimmer back to shore. 

"You never know what the person in trouble may try to do, and then you become a victim yourself," she said.

Minchew said if it were to happen again he would do it all over. He and his family are hoping the young man pulls through given how long he was unconscious. 

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