OCEAN CITY – Two men are being hailed as heroes this week for saving two swimmers who were caught in a strong rip current in the waters off Ocean City.
Multiple rescues by Ocean City Fire Department swimmers have been reported all week, thanks to the summer-like weather, warm ocean water and the Ocean City Beach Patrol’s official coverage season ending last month. Rip currents have been reported along the coast
Around 10:30 on Monday morning, first responders were dispatched to the beach at 2nd Street for two swimmers in distress. But before help could arrive, Good Samaritans had reportedly pulled the swimmers ashore.
Drew Haugh, who operates a beach stand on 2nd Street, said he was opening for business when a woman alerted him of two swimmers who were screaming for help.
“A lady comes running up and yelling that there’s two people in trouble,” he said. “I looked down the beach and saw a huge rip current swirling around.”
As his wife called 911, Haugh said he ran to the water with a boogie board in tow, but arrived in time to witness two beachgoers rescue the two swimmers.
“They got a hold of them and pulled them in,” he said. “It was almost like a lifeguard rescue.”
Haugh later identified the two rescuers as Frank Panetta, of Ocean City, and Glenn Miller, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who were enjoying a day at the beach when they heard cries of help coming from the water.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Haugh said. “They were heroes. They went in there and risked their own lives to save someone else’s.”
Panetta, who had just gotten out of the water 10 minutes earlier, said he was sitting in his chair next to other beachgoers when he first realized that two swimmers, a man and a woman, were in trouble.
“I came out of the water and was laying on my chair when I noticed the ladies next to me saying someone was in trouble,” he said. “Then the guy to my left (Miller) said ‘let’s grab my boogie boards and see if we can help.’ He started going in after lady and I went after the man.”
Miller, who was visiting the beach with his wife that morning, said he heard distress calls from the two swimmers before leaping into action.
“I was sitting there reading my Bible and I started hearing screams and hollers,” he said. “The second time we heard a distinct ‘help!’”
Miller said he could see the rip current from shore and directed the swimmers to swim parallel to the shore before he and Panetta jumped into the water.
“I got to the woman first,” he said, “and the gentleman sitting next to us went after the man.”
While the woman was quickly pulled ashore, Panetta – who worked as a pool lifeguard when he was younger – noted the man was weak.
“He grabbed ahold of the boogie board and I slowly, but surely, pulled him in …,” he said. “When we got close to shore, I grabbed one arm and the other guy (Miller) grabbed the other arm and we walked him right out.”
The two men noted that both swimmers made it out safely and were treated by lifeguards and first responders who had arrived at the scene.
“The lifeguards and responders did an amazing job,” Miller said. “They were very quick to respond.”
For Miller, the morning was “unreal.” He noted, for example, that he and his wife were originally supposed to leave Ocean City the day prior, but had extended their trip to spend another day on the beach. He added that he almost didn’t take his boogie boards.
“It was crazy how everything happened,” he said.
Despite their heroic actions, both men said that they did what anyone would do in that situation.
“It didn’t seem like that big of a deal,” Miller said. “It was a natural response. When someone screams for help, it’s a human reaction.”
“I’m no hero. I’m just an ordinary guy,” he said. “I just did what I had to do.”