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Firefighter on vacation saves young girls from being swept out to sea

Elise Solé
A firefighter on a family vacation wound up saving a group of teens who were caught in a rip current in North Carolina. (Photo: Getty Images)

A firefighter vacationing with his family wound up saving the lives of three teens caught in a dangerous rip current.

On Thursday, Sean O’Gorman, a fireman with the Oswego Fire Department in New York, was vacationing with his wife, two children, ages 11 and 12, and his in-laws on Emerald Isle, North Carolina, when he spotted two girls in their early teens using Boogie Boards, trying to swim to shore without success, according to a story published Friday by the Charlotte Observer.

When their friend swam out to help them, she too became stuck.

“I walked over to the family and asked if anyone had a plan,” O’Gorman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The mother had called 911 while her husband retrieved his surfboard. But the girls were yelling for help so I ran in.” 


SWIFT WATER TRAINING PAYS OFF!Oswego Firefighter/Medic Sean O’Gorman recently completed swift water rescue training in…

Posted by Oswego Fire Department on Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fortunately, O’Gorman had recently completed water rescue training, which required him and his department to swim in a rough, 35-degree river wearing wetsuits, so he felt confident. He swam about 50 yards and reached the two girls (their friend made it back on her own), instructing them to hang onto his feet while he made the 4-minute swim back to shore. 

“My wife told me later that she was concerned because it looked like I was swimming backward,” says the father of six. By the time the trio made it ashore, an ambulance and the fire department had arrived with a jetski. 

O’Gorman, a former lifeguard, says he was not ruffled by the rescue and in fact felt “lucky” due to his recent training. “Plus, I got to be a hero in front of my in-laws.”

Firefighter Sean O’Gorman (pictured with his daughter) saved the lives of a group of teens caught in a rip current. (Photo: Courtesy of Sean O’Gorman)

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents are strong currents of water which expand from the shore and pull objects and people in its path. They claim up to 100 deaths per year and are responsible for more than 80 percent of lifeguard rescues. 

This week, a 4-year-old boy from Manchester, New Hampshire was swept out to sea while vacationing on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. According to Boston local news station WHDH, the boy had been holding hands with mother while walking in ankle-deep water, when a big wave knocked him over and carried him out to sea.

“Once he disappeared, they lost sight of him and we’ve just not been able to recover him since then,” said Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry, reported WHDH. “They did look hard, they looked into the night. We did have thunderstorms overnight, which caused us to stop the search overnight. At some point, you recognize reality and we’re now in a recovery phase.”

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