It started out like a typical July day for Jennifer Suttmeier and Joshua Rua, lifeguards at the Village Beach on the Esopus Creek. The sun was bright and the day warm. They had cleaned up the beach and made it ready for residents who like to lay out in the sand and catch some rays, for the kids that like to build castles in the sand and for the swimmers that use the creek for exercise or just to cool off.
“We have a number of regulars that come here and swim laps for exercise,” Rua said.
One particular regular was out that morning.
“She’s an older woman,” Suttmeier said. “She comes down here regularly to get exercise. When there are people in the water we monitor where they are to see how they’re doing and to make sure they don’t get into any trouble.”
The older woman was swimming well, when all of a sudden she went under the water. “She raised her hands, and started to gulp in water,” Suttmeier said.
Suttmeier and Rua, both in their second year as lifeguards, rushed into the water and working together, brought the woman safely to the beach, where she coughed up water and slowly recovered.
So far, lifeguards have made seven saves at the beach, according to George Terpening, superintendent of the village’s Department of Parks, Buildings and Ground. That’s unusual. Most years there are only three or four, and they tend to involve helping a tired swimmer make it back to shore — a serious situation, but not as serious as water in the lungs. The swimmer who went under the water was the first major save lifeguards have had at the village beach in quite some time.
Terpening and the lifeguards attribute the increase this year to faster current from rain storms and releases into the creek from the Ashokan Reservoir.
Suttmeier said last year there was a young girl who got into trouble while out in the creek and she was there to help get her safely back to shore.
All lifeguards hired by the village are certified in CPR and Lifesaving by the American Red Cross, Rua said.
Earlier in the summer, the Parks, Buildings and Grounds crew moved the two docks that sit about 30 yards into the Esopus closer to shore so that swimmers wouldn’t overextend themselves when trying to swim to it, Terpening added. But when the heavy rains ended and the current got back to its normal flow, the docks were put back out to where they’re normally located.