John Augustus Baker II saved Emily A. Wagner and Laura King from drowning, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 23, 2008. Emily and Laura, both 15, and Emily’s older sister were on a sandbar in the Atlantic Ocean about 300 feet off the beach when the incoming tide stranded them there. Others on the beach called 911, and responders included firefighters who were neither trained nor fully equipped for water rescue. Fearing there was insufficient time for a Coast Guard unit to arrive, one of the firefighters, Baker, 25, entered the water with a rescue tube, as did a male bystander who had been walking on the beach. Having to swim across a strong lateral current and against the incoming tide, the men made their way to the sandbar. Baker positioned Emily and Laura on the rescue tube and started to return to shore, pulling them, as the other man returned to shore with Emily’s sister. As he swam, Baker struggled against the current and the weight of the girls, but he made it to the beach safely with them.
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