Teenager helps save two people from drowning

Nathan Rankin points to the area in East End where he rescued the two ladies. -Photo: Jewel Levy

An East End teen is being lauded for helping rescue two people after they were caught in strong currents in East End waters.

The rescue happened Monday, June 13, on the Queen’s Birthday holiday.

Gary “Nathan” Rankin, 14, was cleaning out his grandfather’s boat anchored offshore, just past East End Heritage Field, when he heard cries for help.

Earlier, he had seen two women hanging on to a kayak some distance away but thought nothing of it, taking it as just two people having a little dip and enjoying themselves in the water, which he said was not too rough at the time.

It was only when they got closer that he heard them crying out for help, and without hesitation he dived into action.

“It was no second-chance thinking for me. I just went ahead and jumped in,” said the Grade 9 student who attends Clifton Hunter High School.

“I think the ladies saw tourists on the beach and they began hollering to them for help,” he explained.

One man dove in to help, but thinking the man could not help both of the women, and as he was much closer to them, Nathan jumped in himself.

“I never had the keys for the boat … it was low tide and the boat was sitting on the grass,” he said.

When Nathan got to the women, they were drifting in the water and struggling to hang on to the kayak.

“When I got closer, I asked how many life jackets they had … one lady said two, but they were at the back of the kayak. It was really deep … I managed to grab one lady by the waist and hung on to the kayak until she got a good hold on a life jacket.”

The older woman, Nathan said, let go of the kayak.

“I think she was trying to get to the back of the kayak to grab one of the life vests, but the current was moving fast and took her away,” he said.

Nathan kept kicking his legs to bring the kayak back to the second woman, but her nose was below water and she was having a lot of difficulty trying to catch her breath.

The tourist who had also jumped in the water to assist arrived then, and grabbed the second woman.

“I had a head start on him because he stopped to take off some garments … he was much older so I got to the ladies first,” Nathan said.

Nathan, who wants a career in the Royal Air Force, credits his grandfather Captain Andrew Pierson for his experience at sea and familiarity with water safety. He said, from the age of six, his grandfather taught him to dive, snorkel and how to fish. He also taught him about currents, how to handle the boat, and just by looking, how to spot potential dangers.

“He said if I ever got caught in a current, not to fight it, if it’s on a course to shore, let it take me because if I tried to fight it, I would get tired and not reach my destination,” Nathan said.

That safety tip proved to be very useful.

Following his grandfather’s advice to not fight the current, Nathan successfully saved his strength, and when he arrived back on shore, he realized the group had ended up almost 200 yards from where he first jumped into the water.

Sitting back on the beach, the two women kept telling Nathan they were all right, while the other man went to get them some water.

Nathan said the women told him they had been walking on the shoreline with their kayak when the current took it into the deeper water. They swam out to get it, but the further out it went, the more difficult it was to get it back.

Tourists on the beach called 911 when they saw people who seemed to be having trouble in the water. However, after the women came ashore, they said they were fine and declined 911 assistance.

“They said ‘Thank you very much,’ and I went on about my business of cleaning the boat. I think another lady came and gave them a ride,” Nathan said of what happened after that.