rescue interview 8-7-08Benjamin Torre talks about the rescue on the beach.
When 12-year-old Boy Scout Joshua Torre received his merit badge for life saving two months ago, he had no idea that know-how would be put to the test so soon.
Joshua and his brothers, Benjamin, 10, and Daniel, 7, have been vacationing this week with their mother in Panama City, Fla. Their vacation took a strange turn Sunday morning when the Forsyth County natives were sitting on the beach building a sand castle.
"I heard a woman start screaming for help, and I didn't know what was happening exactly," Joshua said Wednesday by phone from the Florida beach town.
He and Benjamin approached the water's edge and saw a man floating face down. It was at this point, according to Benjamin, that Joshua dove in.
"He went into the water, about knee-deep, and he observed the situation," Benjamin said. "He hesitated a little and jumped in and called for me to come in after him."
Benjamin grabbed a boogie board and followed closely behind his brother.
Joshua approached the man in the water.
According to news reports, 60-year-old James Powell of Austin, Texas, had suffered a heart attack while swimming and his wife was being overcome by 5-foot waves.
The boys' mother, Christine Torre, said double red flags flew on the beach Sunday morning to warn swimmers to stay out of the water.
Tropical Storm Edouard passed through the Panama City Beach area earlier this week, stirring rough seas and dangerous rip tides. At least five tourists drowned there over a five-day span.
"The seas were really rough," the boys' mother said. "I had instructed the boys not to go into the water."
She looked out the window of a beach house where the family was staying. When she didn't see Joshua or Benjamin on the beach, she ran outside.
When she got to the water, she saw that the boys were bringing a man in to the shore on a boogie board.
Joshua said when he reached Powell, he told the man's wife they needed to flip him over.
"We pushed his head up out of the water," Joshua said. "Then Ben came and we slid him onto the boogie board and started pulling him in to shore."
Christine waded into the water to help her sons pull the man onto the beach. At that point, a jogger came up who knew CPR.
"She administered CPR," Christine said. "And then she looked up and she said, 'He's gone.'"
According to reports, Powell died about 9:40 a.m. on the beach as paramedics arrived.
Christine said Powell's wife nearly drowned trying to save her husband before her sons came to the aid.
"She was out there trying to keep him afloat," Christine said. "The water was crashing over her head. She was bobbing down and touching and coming back up for air."
Christine said the Powell family was staying in the beach house right next door to them.
"It's been a very emotional experience," Christine said, adding that she's proud of her sons' quick action.
Joshua and Benjamin were interviewed by a local news station in Panama City, WJHG, following the incident.
Joshua said having acquired his life-saving merit badge "helped tremendously," but he credited his brother's quick thinking in grabbing the boogie board.
"I was thankful for that boogie board," Joshua said.
Benjamin, who is also in Boy Scouts, recently received his CPR merit badge.
Joshua and Benjamin both swim competitively on the Cumming Waves swim team. Joshua has been a member for three years and Benjamin two seasons.
"They're very good swimmers," Christine said. "That's where they received their swimming training."
Joshua and Benjamin's father, Tom Torre, stayed in Forsyth County to work while the rest of the family went on the Panama City vacation.
His wife called him from Florida to tell him about what had happened.
Tom said he was proud of his sons for their quick thinking.
"Having training through Scouts, the boys did exactly what they were taught to do, to react."