Firefighter/EMT Barry Brown and patrol Officer Eric Austin received the organization’s Red Cross Emergency Medical Heroes Award for their efforts to rescue two drowning victims while vacationing on the Eastern shore last year.
Roanoke County Firefighter/EMT Barry Brown and his friend since childhood, Roanoke County police Officer Eric Austin, were vacationing with their families in Holden Beach, North Carolina during the July fourth holiday last summer when their training was called into action.
It was their first day of vacation and they were sitting on the beach enjoying the sunshine. The water was extremely rough with rip current warnings posted. Suddenly, Officer Austin noticed a lady jump up from her beach chair and race into the ocean. Austin looked farther out into the water and saw a boy flailing his arms.
Without a thought, he jumped up, raced to the ocean and dove in. Firefighter/EMT Brown, without hesitation jumped up and followed his friend into the rough waters. They both swam out to the child and mother who were about 200 feet from shore. Brown reached the boy first and hoisted him up over his head while he tried to swim to shore. Austin battled with the woman before calming her down. She was so frantic that she nearly pushed both men under the water. The rip current was strong and it was pulling the men, along with the victims away from shore even farther. Eventually, the current broke and the men were able to pull the young boy and mother to land.
They did not realize the magnitude of their actions until after they reached shore and began to think about what could have happened. Later, they learned by local news reports that four vacationers had died during the week as a result of rip currents and two of the dead were would-be rescuers.