ROWLAND — When you’re a police officer, you are never off duty.
Just ask Rowland police Officer Scott Chavis, who, with his uncle and friend, helped rescue several people stuck in a rip current at North Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week.
“We were standing there by the ocean and we saw a guy run past us,” said Chavis, 33, who’d been talking with his uncle Steve just before 8 p.m. on June 16 after a wedding on the beach. “I looked to see what he was running to, and … there was this pipeline that was running out of the beach going into the ocean. The under current was pulling them up under the pipe.”
According to Chavis, two women and three children had become trapped and were clinging to a large pipe that extended from the shore out into the water. A Google Maps satellite image shows two pipes, each at least 50 feet long, protruding from the shore behind the resort during a low tide.
“They were just hanging onto the pipe, trying to stay above water,” Chavis said.
Steve, who had taken his wheelchair-bound mother to “get her feet wet” in the water, noted that the tide was high.
Scott had run into the water and started swimming to the people before Steve could take his cell phone from his pocket and throw it on the ground. While Scott swam toward the people, Steve made his way down the top of the pipe, pulling from the water and helping to the shore a young girl and an adult woman.
Scott said that he swam along the pipe and grabbed a second young girl and handed her to Goins, who carried her to shore. Scott swam down the pipe again, grabbed a third young girl and helped her to shore, he said. He then climbed on top of the pipe, and with Steve, made his way down to a second adult woman who was in the water, pulled her out and helped her to shore.
“When I went out, I didn’t have an idea what was going on, I just thought they were caught up,” Scott said. “When I got to the water, I felt the currents start pulling me as well. That’s when I stopped and grabbed the pipe and the child and I pulled her to me instead of going farther.”
According to Scott, the two women were hanging on to the pipe behind the kids, trying to inch them closer to shore.
“They were trying to help the kids forward instead of themselves,” he said. “They were more or less thinking about the kids more than themselves to try to get them to safety.”
Two men, including the one who ran past Scott and Steve earlier, had swum out to help the trapped people but instead got stuck themselves, Scott said. He and his uncle helped one of the men out of the water, and the other made it to shore on his own after the others had been pulled from the water.
The people appeared unharmed did not require medical attention.
“They were standing over there, huddling, hugging one another,” Steve said. “It just happened so fast, we didn’t have to think. It was a scary situation. I’m just glad we were there to help them out.”
Scott said all the people were thankful.
“They asked us if they owed us anything,” he said. “We’re like, ‘Ma’am, you don’t owe us anything. We were glad to help.’ That was pretty much it. Before they went back up, they came back and thanked us again.”
Both men thank God that they were in the right place at the right time.
“If we weren’t there then there’s no telling what might have happened to those kids or that family,” Scott said. “… Glory be to God, were were just in the right place at the right time to help those people.”