A group of good Samaritans helped save a father and his two young children after they got caught in a dangerous rip current Sunday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale.
The incident happened around 3 p.m. near 3100 N. Ocean Boulevard in an unguarded area of the beach, Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue spokesman Matt Little said.
Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue was flying yellow flags on Sunday for risks of rip currents.
Teenage swimmers enjoyed the thrill of the powerful currents, which threatened to turn dangerous. The soothing sounds may have lulled 15-year-old Saleh Saleh to sleep. The nap was short lived.
"I was sleeping and then I woke up to a kid screaming for help," said the teen.
Saleh said he quickly joined an improvised rescue team of good Samaritans, called on to help after the two children, between ages 6-10, were pulled in by the power of the currents.
Their father, approximately 30 years old, dove in to save them, but was caught in the same current pulling the children out to sea, Little said.
"Every time they would come back to the shore you thought they were [safe] but they were pulled back 30 ft out again," said Alex Serrano, who also risked the current to help save the family.
"He let go of the girl so I brought her back into the beach," said Yuri Gallegos.
With the little girl safe on the sand, her father and brother continued to play tug of war with the current. That's when Saleh grabbed a boogie board.
"The kid was under water and like drowning. I put him on the boogie board and pushed him ashore," he said.
"At the end we kind of made a conveyor belt. Everybody grabbed hands because we didn't have a rope," Saleh said. "We were able to pull him in at the last bit."
All three pulled back onto the sandy beach alive. The father pulled ashore was transported as an advanced life support patient to Broward General Hospital. His condition is non-life threatening, Little said.
Despite risking their own lives to save the family, Gallegos says he wouldn't call himself a hero.
"No hero just doing what any father would have probably done," said the man.
The reluctant heroes and the family they helped may have been strangers, but the good Samaritans walked away knowing how grateful they are.
"The father was looking at me saying thank you," says Serrano.
Should you be pulled in by a rip current, Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue says don't fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax.
"Swimmers are also advised to stay informed of current beach conditions and swim only in lifeguard protected areas of the beach," Little said.