This Weeks Hero Was Suggested By LeAnn
On May 9th 2004, SFC Lloyd A. Heinrichs Jr was down at the Ocean front in Virginia Beach when a ‘Swimmer in Distress’ call came in to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Dispatch office about noon.
Myself (Gary Couch, Dive 8), SFC Heinrichs and Petty Officer First Class Scott Weil of the U.S Navy, volunteered to respond the call. There were a total of 3 people in the water that were being pulled out to sea by the current. The temperature of the water was only around 65 degrees Fahrenheit with the air temperature at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The undertow was very extreme that day with the beach already “Red Flagged” due to the strong currents and excessive waves.
Upon arrival to the scene, SFC Heinrichs and PO1 Weil identified the victims. Without hesitation and with total disregard for their own safety each grabbed a torpedo buoy and entered the water.
SFC Heinrichs went for the first victim to the South of 36th Street while PO1 Weil went for the second and third victims, which were hanging on to each other to the North of 36th Street. As I observed SFC Heinrichs and PO1 Weil, once they were waist deep, the current rapidly pulled them out.
SFC Heinrichs made his way to the first victim and started fighting his way back to shore. Once SFC Heinrichs reached his victim, he calmed her down, making the attempt to head back to shore. Several times SFC Heinrichs and his victim were rolled under by the enormous waves and undertow. His victim was completely exhausted from the ordeal. Once he reached shallow water, he assisted his victim to shore. The victim was an older heavy-set lady, early forties.
The Virginia Beach Fire Department Paramedics placed the victim on a stretcher and the Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad took her to Virginia Beach General Hospital.
SFC Heinrichs was extremely exhausted and fatigued from the rescue. He turned to check on PO1 Weil and notice that PO1 Weil had reached the other two victims, a male in his late twenties and a female in her early forties. PO1 Weil was struggling with his two victims giving a hand and arm signal for ‘Help’.
The female was almost passive from near drowning, and the male who had initially swum out to help her was becoming a victim himself.
Without hesitation, SFC Heinrichs picked himself up and ran back into the water to assist PO1 Weil while PO1 Weil did what he could to keep them calm and afloat until help arrived. Once SFC Heinrichs reached PO1 Weil and the other two victims, they were all rolled by several consecutive waves, pinning SFC Heinrichs under the two victims.
A few moments later, SFC Heinrichs emerged between the victims with both lanyards of the torpedo buoys wrapped around his neck, gasping for air.
As the situation went from bad to worse, PO1 Weil tried his best to help SFC Heinrichs with untangling the lanyards from his neck while trying to hold his passive victim’s head out of the water.
SFC Heinrichs took a deep breath and submerged himself in the attempt to free his neck. As each wave came over the top of PO1 Weil and the victims, we kept waiting for him to resurface in bated breath not knowing that the lanyards kept tightening around SFC Heinrichs’ neck.
While continuous waves were tossing PO1 Weil and the victims, SFC Heinrichs reemerged on the side of the victims. He had been under for over thirty seconds trying to get loose. We began to worry weather or not he was going to come back up.
You could hear the heavy sigh of relief from all the EMS personnel on the beach once he resurfaced. He grabbed a hold of the male victim and started for shore.
The victims once, on shore, were taken away for medical attention. PO1 Weil and SFC Heinrichs were taken to an ambulance and checked for possible hypothermia and released.
These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
It Is Foolish And Wrong To Mourn The Men Who Died. Rather We Should Thank God That Such Men Lived
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