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Off-Duty Pensacola Officer Helps Rescue 4 Kids, 1 Adult From Rip Current

Pensacola, FL – An off-duty Pensacola police officer’s relaxing Mother’s Day beach outing came to a screeching halt when he heard terrified screams and realized four children were caught in a rip current.

Pensacola Police Officer Anthony Giorgio and his family were packing up their belongings at Johnson Beach on May 9 when the panic erupted, the Pensacola Police Department (PPD) said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

The veteran officer scanned the waves and realized four children were caught in a rip current.

“Now most of us here have experienced this to some degree and at least have the head knowledge of what to do,” the PPD said. “But remember, we’re talking about kids from out of town. They were panicking. And sinking in the kind of current that pulls you out just far enough to get waylaid by incoming waves. Over and over and over.”

Bystanders attempted to reach the children by making a human chain, but there were not enough people to cover the 150-foot span, police said.

One woman broke away and tried to swim towards the teens before she became caught up in the rip current as well.

“You’ve heard this story way too many times before and you know how this could have turned out,” the PPD said.

Officer Giorgio took off at a dead sprint and jumped into the water alongside Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Reece Raxter to swim out to the desperate children.

“They fought the chop and rip current to reach the flailing kids,” the PPD said. “Officer Giorgio grabbed one kid, who was in and out of consciousness and swam him to shore. He then went back into the gulf and grabbed another child, and brought him to shore with the help of an unknown man.”

“Remember, this is fifty yards out,” the police department noted. “For comparison, this afternoon, go sprint 100 yards on sand, swim fifty yards a couple of times, and then 100 yards more while carrying another human. You get the picture. Giorgio was gassed, but not done.”

He jumped back into the water with Raxter, two other Good Samaritans, and a kid’s flotation device to help the woman who had gone in after the children.

They were able to get everyone safely back to shore.

Nurse Erica Shelley and the other first responders helped deliver first aid to the teens on the beach.

“Your only job is to cough up the water and keep talking to me,” Shelley told the boy who took in the most water, according to WKRG. “He kept saying ‘I’m going to die,’ and I said ‘keep talking to me you aren’t going to die. You’re safe now,’ and I think that was the biggest thing was staying calm because everything was so chaotic around him and he was so scared.”

Escambia Fire Rescue and park rangers responded to the scene and took over the children’s care, the PPD said.

The following day, Officer Giorgio was back at work as a school resource officer at Pensacola High School.

The agency said Officer Giorgio is well aware the situation could have turned out much differently for the teens and for himself.

“He has people that count on him too,” the PPD said. “Giorgio is quick to deflect attention. Many others played important roles too; Harvard shirt guy, former lifeguard guy, blonde nurse, Greg’s son, and white beard guy. He didn’t get their names, but thought it was important that you knew about them.”

“Thank you doesn’t seem adequate, but that’s all we have,” the PPD concluded “So thank you Officer Anthony Giorgio and BM2 Reece Raxter and so many others for keeping someone’s Mother’s Day special. Well done, gentleman, Well done.”

The thankful mothers of the four teens who were rescued from the near-drowning incident told WKRG they have a special surprise planned for Officer Giorgio for Father’s Day next month.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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