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Michigan teen rescues local children from gulf

By Staff | Aug 26, 2009

A pair of children swimming near Blind Pass on Captiva were rescued around 4 p.m. last Thursday by a 14-year-old boy after a strong current unexpectedly carried the locals a half mile into the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the youngsters, 9-year-old Maxime Miville, is the daughter of Captiva resident Rene Miville, who owns a home on Roosevelt Channel not far from the Pass. Unbeknownst to Miville, his son Rene, daughter Maxime and two of their friends jumped off the Miville’s dock and floated down to the Blind Pass bridge.

What began as innocent play quickly escalated into a crisis as the current swept Maxime and her young friend – whose identity was withheld at her parent’s request – out into the gulf.

“Rene and the older girl – who is the sister of the younger girl – were pushed to the side and managed to swim ashore. At the same time – and keep in mind they’re travelling at three feet per second, maybe even faster – they’re 100 feet out pretty much in 30 seconds,” Miville said, noting that from the point that the children jumped into the channel, the whole event probably took about 120 seconds.

Fourteen-year-old Corey Saladin of Reed City, Mich., said he realized something was wrong when he heard two young people – Rene Jr. and the older sister – calling for help near the shore.

“Me and my mom were on the beach collecting shells,” Saladin said. “We heard this little girl and a boy close to the shore yelling ‘Help, help!’ and I looked further out to see who was out there and I saw the two little girls.”

In a brilliant burst of quick thinking, Saladin grabbed an abandoned boogie board and headed out into the water.

“I said, ‘Mom, they need help’ so I ran behind her and grabbed the boogie board,” he explained. “She thought that I was just going to help the boy and the girl that were closer, but I thought to go for the ones farther out because I had the boogie board and I knew that they would need that more.”

Saladin and his mother, Katie Young, said that the girls were so far out that they couldn’t tell at the time whether they were young or old.

“Two of them were coming closer to shore, but the other two were moving farther out. They were a half mile out and we could barely see their heads,” said Young, noting her first thought was that Saladin was going to assist the kids closest to the shore, not the girls out in the gulf.

“I was crying and jumping up and down on shore, yelling for him to swim faster and come back,” Young said, her voice breaking. “I didn’t want him to drown. I was terrified. But he knew he could do it. He just knew.”

“That was the one thing that I was worried about, them getting hurt and drowning or something,” Saladin said.

Realizing that the boogie board was slowing him down, Saladin attached it to his wrist and continued making his way out to the girls. He helped them onto the board and the three of them took turns kicking to shore.

“When he came back he just sat down on the beach because he was so worn out,” Young said. “I didn’t believe he was a strong enough swimmer to do that. And I guess I didn’t realize how strong he really is for 14. I should know that he runs all the time and he’s athletic… but you never know. We’re not from around here.”

Saladin is modest about his daring rescue, but said that he wishes that more people, in general, were capable and healthy enough to help should an emergency like last Thursday’s occur in front of them.

“Things like that happen, and people should learn to be able to save a life – teenagers and adults – because this could happen to anyone,” he said.

Saladin – in addition to being a hero – runs track, is a youth camp counselor during the summers and helps with United Way and the elderly.

“That boy shows what’s best in humankind. He didn’t think about himself and just jumped in the water without a second’s hesitation. That represents everything that’s great in our human race,” Miville said.

“I’m just so impressed by him and I’m so proud. I had no idea that he could do that,” Young added. “He’s my hero.”

One big, one little and one unsung hero

Miville says there was another hero that day – his daughter Maxime.

According to both Saladin and the littlest Miville’s young friend, Maxime played an important role in keeping her friend calm and afloat as they waited for help to arrive.

The girl told Maxime that she was starting to become tired from treading water, so Maxime – an experienced swimmer for her young age – bravely held onto the girl’s hand and helped her not to panic.

“Neither of the kids panicked, which is important because if they had panicked, it would have been over,” Miville said, noting that while he was initially horrified with the childrens’ decision to jump off the dock, he’s relieved that Maxime kept a cool head and everything turned out happily. “They won’t be doing that again. The kids know.”

“When you have a near death experience, I don’t care if you’re five or 50 – you don’t stick your finger in the light socket again,” Miville said. “I’m really shaken up because I’m thinking, ‘What if?’ and how devastating that would be. It’s just so overwhelming, The world’s worst situation is to bury your own child.”

A bystander at the beach that day echoed that sentiment.

Sanibel resident Ellie See and her two nieces arrived at Blind Pass right before the incident occurred.

According to See, she and her nieces had only been in the water about 10 minutes when they heard the cries for help coming from the two young people closer to the shore.

“We looked at them and it looked like they were playing. So we kept talking and then a minute later, they really started yelling ‘Help us!'” See said. “One of the girls yelled, ‘My sister, she’s not going to come back’ and then we looked out and there were two other kids being pulled way out. We didn’t notice them at first because they were so far.”

See and her nieces, both teenagers, began yelling to the girls, telling them to lay on their backs and float so as not to tire themselves out, but See later found out that the girls could hear nothing out in the gulf.

See alerted a couple on the beach to call 9-1-1.

It was then that Saladin grabbed the boogie board and ran for the water.

“We knew we couldn’t have swam out there because we had nothing to hold onto and the water was so rough. I wanted to go, but I didn’t know what I could do for them. It was a terrible, terrible feeling. It was such a helpless feeling,” See said. “The mother was crying hysterically, saying ‘He’s only 14. He’s not used to this’ and that’s when I realized they weren’t from Sanibel. We just kept hugging while he was out there and I kept assuring her that he was OK. She was a wonderful woman, but she was so scared.”

A mother herself, See stood on the shore supporting the terrified Young until Saladin had made it back to the beach with his precious cargo.

But there was something else that See did that Miville says makes her equally worthy of praise – she stopped the kids from leaving the beach, as they had intended to do, after they’d been rescued.

After Saladin brought the girls in, See took it upon herself to ask the children who they were and where they lived and, in recognizing little Rene’s name, she contacted his father and mother immediately.

“I talked to Rene and said ‘You need to come over here and meet this young man. We thought we were going to lose Maxime. You almost lost your daughter,'” See said, noting that it was immediately after that phone call that emergency squads arrived.

Thankfully, See noted, they weren’t required to perform any further rescuing or any resuscitations, but they spoke individually to each of the children about the dangers of the Pass.

“This is a new thing for us, too, here on the island. We’re thrilled that the pass open, but it’s dangerous. It’s not what it used to be. Rene did not know those kids were gone and that’s why, at first, they didn’t want to tell me where they lived or their names. I figured that out when they were looking at me with big eyes. It was important for me for the kids to realize how serious this was,” See said, although she admits she was amazed at how calm and focused Maxime had remained throughout the entire ordeal.

When Saladin returned, he collapsed onto the beach for a well-deserved rest. All were impressed with the teenager’s daring feat.

See recalled one of the firefighters saying that even he thought he couldn’t have swam that distance that quickly.

“There was no one else on the beach that could have really swam out there – and we still don’t know where that boogie board came from,” See said.

But she wonders.

“This is going to make me cry, but I lost my mom last year. She was my best friend and a fabulous woman. She loved kids and her whole life was taking care of her grandchildren,” she added.

“I had this weird feeling,” See continued, referring to the extraordinary coincidence of a relatively nice boogie board having been conveniently abandoned directly behind where Saladin and his mother stood.

“And then my nieces looked at me and they said, ‘That’s grammy.’ Somehow, that boogie board was there, and no one could figure out how it got there,” See said, noting that she asked many of the people that were watching the event unfold if the board belonged to them, but she couldn’t find the owner.

“I do feel like everything happens for a reason and that board came from heaven.

Giving a new meaning to “what I did on my summer vacation,” Saladin kept the boogie board as a souvenir.

Saladin is vacationing in Florida at his grandmother’s home in Lehigh Acres, and plans to celebrate a birthday at Walt Disney World before heading back to Michigan to begin the ninth grade.