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Carl Vinson Sailors Save Swimmers' Lives

CORONADO, Calif.  -- Two Sailors assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) assisted in saving three swimmers' lives at Naval Air Station North Island's (NASNI) Breakers Beach Aug. 19.

Assigned to Air Department, V-2 Division, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Taylor Johnson and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Patrick Kelley were at Breakers Beach with friends to celebrate Johnson's birthday.

Kelley and Johnson were in the water near the break when a woman swam past them to shore and ran toward the lifeguard tower calling for help. Johnson and Kelley said they immediately turned to find the cause of her distress: three swimmers had been pulled approximately 100 yards out by a rip current.

"As we looked out into open water we noticed three individuals out there panicking, waving their arms and yelling," Johnson said. "The riptide was wicked dangerous that day."

Kelley jumped into action immediately.

"Kelley dove in and started swimming," Johnson said. "I dove in [after] and was on his heels. Kelley swam in the direction of the gentleman out there and I swam in the direction of the other two," he said. "I noticed another gentleman also jumped in the water and, so, he was to my left, swimming behind me."

"The swimmers caught in the rip current looked like they were struggling pretty hard," Kelley said. "I was the first responder. Naturally, I just started swimming out there and I grabbed the guy that looked like he was in the roughest state."

Kelley swam to the only male and pulled the man's arms up behind him and over Kelley's shoulders. With that, Kelley started swimming toward shore. He was able to bring the man all the way to the safety of the shore without any assistance.

Johnson and the other unknown male rescuer behind him made it to the women caught in the current and began the task of bringing them toward shore. Soon, a lifeguard arrived with the longboard and helped them take the women to safety.

"When it happened, I really didn't think anything about it, honestly," Kelley said. "Now looking back on it, it's kind of overwhelming considering it's such a big deal, because I know a family still has their loved one because of it."

After the Sailors made it to shore, Johnson said the beach-goers were very enthusiastic about their efforts. Capt. Christopher E. Sund, executive officer of Naval Base Coronado, who was also on the beach that day, approached the Carl Vinson Sailors following their rescue and thanked them for their efforts.

"Nothing really felt any differently until the base XO left," Johnson said. "Then it kind of hit us, how obvious it was that we had to be the ones who swam out there to help. We were the closest individuals to the situation, we were the first that lady ran by as she was screaming, "help, help, help!" It was apparent that it was what we needed to do, and we just took it upon ourselves to get the job done."

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