NEWPORT, Ore. - A Bend teacher and coach, visiting the coast with his family Saturday, plunged into the surf north of Newport -- not once, but twice -- to rescue four young swimmers caught offshore in a dangerous rip tide.
Nathan Neil, 35, who teaches social studies at Summit High and coaches football and wrestling, did not contact NewsChannel 21 about what transpired -- a family friend did.
And when contacted, he was reluctant to talk about it, rejecting the "hero" label as so many do. But he agreed to write out what happened in the following account, to warn others about the dangers to be aware of.
A Newport Fire Department employee confirmed Sunday that they were called to Beverly Beach north of Newport for a water rescue around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, but that everyone was out of the water in the less than 10 minutes it took for them to arrive. All were fine, though one was checked by an ambulance crew, he said.
"The ocean, and surf especially, is not a place to swim," said the firefighter, who declined to be named. "It's a place to surf, it's a place to fish -- it's not a place to swim. It is a dangerous place."
Nathan Neil's story:
"We were at Beverly Beach (just north of Newport) Saturday afternoon. Very nice weather and lots of people in the water.
There was a group of 8-10 young adults/teenagers swimming off shore who had been slowly moving down the beach with the current toward a spot that is known to produce a rip current.
I saw half the members coming out of the water with worried looks. Three others were still in the water, one almost to shore and the other two about 50 yards out.
I asked the closer swimmer if anything was wrong and he told me "one of them can't swim."
I asked the other closer swimmer to tell them to start swimming parallel to the shore. My dad threw me a boogie board and I went out after them. They were too far out to hear and the waves made it hard to see them.
When I got to them, we were closer to 60-70 yards from shore. They both asked for help, grabbed onto my board and we began kicking.
It took us a good 5-10 minutes to get to shore, but both of the boys ended up being okay.
At that point, two other swimmers, a young man and young woman, were in almost the same location the boys were before. We could see they weren't making progress and were upset.
I went back out and told them to begin swimming up shore. The young man was a strong swimmer and was able to make it out on his own. The female was struggling, panicking and shouted "help me!"
She was able to hang on to my board. When I got to her, we were further out then the boys. She was confused about how far out from shore she was and why she couldn't touch.
I asked her to just breathe and begin kicking. Eventually we were able to make it in and she was able to walk to shore.
The young man and mother were very appreciative and thanked me. Emergency personnel arrived once everyone was safely ashore and verified that everyone had made it out of the water safely.
Had they known what to do once they were in the situation, I'm fairly confident that the two stronger swimmers could have helped themselves. The other two would not have been in the position to, nor would have the ability to swim out on their own.
As it was, they were trying to fight the current, seemingly unaware of why they were moving farther from shore.
I just think it's important that people know how to respond when caught in a rip current (this one was actually relatively weak compared to some).
The coast was great this weekend, and people should enjoy it. But make sure someone is watching you, don't go too deep without a life vest or board (boogie or surf), don't swim alone and pay attention to the tides.
Hopefully people will be a little more aware before going out to swim in the ocean."