Martell’s server Nick Haines never imagined he would go swimming in the ocean while red flags were out on Saturday.
Haines, a former lifeguard of eight years, was serving tables when he noticed people gathering on the beach, looking out towards the ocean, at about 6 p.m., which was about half an hour after lifeguards went off duty. Haines saw a swimmer bobbing in the ocean and getting pulled out further and further.
“I saw him bobbing in the ocean, so I took off my apron and told one of the other servers to get the torpedo,” Haines said.
Haines opened one of the windows on the side of Martell’s Tiki Bar and jumped down to the beach. He ran towards the group and removed his uniform. He started to swim out to the victim and, as he swam, another beachgoer was swimming back.
“I swam past this guy who had started out to save the boy, but he couldn’t make it and was swimming back to shore,” Haines said. “He had a look of defeat as he swam back. Once I passed the break, I saw the boy about 50 yards out.”
Harry DiCorcia, Director of Security at Martell's, said the incident took place about 200 yards south of Martell’s pier in Point Beach. As Haines swam out towards the victim, who is a 12-year-old from Guttenburg, NJ, another server swam out behind Haines.
Matt Inman, also a former lifeguard, who serves tables at Martell’s, grabbed the lifeguard torpedo, shed his uniform and jumped into the ocean.
“When I got to him, he was struggling to stay above water. I gave him one good Heimlich maneuver and he coughed up water. He tried to bear hug me, but I was able to get him into the rescue position,” Haines said. “I held him with one arm, while trying to signal towards shore with the other. We must have floated there for about three minutes, but it felt like an hour.”
Haines said he could finally see a figure moving towards him and realized it was Inman with a lifeguard torpedo.
“When Matt arrived, he let the kid use the torpedo and started talking to him. He asked the kid what his name was and the kid said his name was Justin,” Haines said. “He just kept talking to Justin while we floated there, regaining our energy.”
As they took some time to recharge for the swim back to shore, a third member of Martell’s staff, a bartender, had grabbed a lifeguard long-board and was headed in. Joe Przybysz fought waves for roughly ten minutes before he was able to get past the breaking surf.
“I grabbed the rescues board and started out towards them. It was nearly impossible with the ten-foot board,” Przybysz said. “As I saw them, they were already swimming back to shore, so I swam around behind them and followed them in.”
As the group reached shore they were met by Jim Howell and Paul Phillips, two of Martell’s security staff.
“I saw the bartender grab a rescue board and run towards the ocean and there were a lot of people watching the ocean,” Howell said. “As they came in, I saw Joe getting banged around and Matt holding the kid on the torpedo. Me and Paul ran in and helped pull them out.”
Once on shore, Przybysz, a former EMT, started to check the victim for injury.
“Point Beach EMT and police did an excellent job. Once I informed them I was an EMT, they let me do my thing. I told them to get me an oxygen tank and we strapped him down to a board,” Przybysz said. “Once he was set with the oxygen, we carried him up to the ambulance and they took over.”
Point Beach Police and Point Pleasant First Aid and Emergency Squad treated and transported the victim to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for treatment.
According to Point Beach Sergeant Gerald Quaglia, the boy is doing OK.
“That was a job well done by the staff of Martell’s,” Quaglia said. “As far as we know, he’s doing fine.”
After the rescue, all members of Martell’s staff went back to work in wet pants and were greeted with applause from both guests and co-workers.
"We would like to congratulate Nick, Matt, Joe, Paul and Jim for an excellent job. We feel extremely fortunate to have such dedicated, responsible and fearless staff members who risked their own lives in an effort to save another,” DiCorcia said.
Staff members at Martell’s noted that people should not go into the ocean when there are red flags posted and also when lifeguards are not on duty.
“I had faith Matt was coming out after us, but I still should have grabbed a torpedo before heading out,” Haines said. “I saved Justin’s life, and Matt saved both of our lives. If he didn’t show, I would have drowned. Matt’s my hero and I also want to give thanks to Joe.”