A good Samaritan fisherman rescued a teenage girl who was struggling in the ocean off Ocean County’s Island Beach State Park Friday morning.
Officials say the teenager entered the ocean in an unguarded area near the Barnegat Inlet jetty, a popular fishing area in the state park.
According to a Seaside Heights news release, the girl quickly encountered trouble.
“She soon found herself about 30 yards offshore and in distress because of surf conditions today,” the release said.
The fisherman, identified as Mark McAuliff, tells WHYY that he was driving on the beach and saw a young woman screaming that her sister was drowning. That’s when he called 911, which dispatched water rescue teams from Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.
“No one was doing anything to help,” McAuliff said. “I realized that I was the only one that had a chance. So off I went.”
He retrieved a personal flotation device from his truck, swam out to the girl, and held her head above water until Island Beach State Park lifeguards reached the scene “from miles away” and completed the rescue of both, according to the news release.
“Later on shore, (McAuliff) admitted that he isn’t a strong swimmer, but said, ‘I couldn’t let her drown’,” the news release stated. “The fisherman is a hero. And the teenager, quite frankly, is lucky to be alive.”
Officials did not provide any information about the girl’s condition. Eyewitnesses say she was assisted by emergency medical personnel.
A request for additional information from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the park, was sent on Friday afternoon.
This is a developing story. Check back for new information.