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Airmen from Joint Base Langley-Eustis save drowning girl

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-FORT EUSTIS, Va. – Airmen from the Joint Base Langley-Eustis helped save a drowning girl May 13.

Photo courtesy: Joint Base Langley-Eustis

By the time medical services arrived to the beach, they found a young girl that had been rescued from the water in her mother’s arms. The 9-year-old had been swimming when the current carried her into deeper waters where she could no longer stand and was getting closer to the rocks.

It was at that moment that U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Penny, along with friends Ashley Staley and Adam Bradshaw, sprang into action.

“My friend got up and said, ‘That little girl is in the water,’” Penny said. “My back was towards the water, so I couldn’t see what was going on, but she took off sprinting so I just started sprinting with her.”

At first, Penny and his friends couldn’t locate the girl. He remembers getting to the top of the rocks and seeing her still conscious, floating in the water.

“Then we heard her mom come sprinting and shouting, ‘Help my daughter, she can’t swim, and I can’t either,’” Penny said.

Penny and Staley started climbing down the sharp-slippery rocks until they reached what they thought was shallow water.

“We weren’t expecting for the water to be so deep that close to the rocks, but it was over our heads,” Penny said.

He said this was the first time he remembers being afraid for himself – even after four deployments.

Soon after, Bradshaw arrived after swimming around the rocks in search for the girl and helped bring her back to the edge of the rocks.

“At this point, the water was just beating us against the rocks,” Penny said. “The water was just crazy. It was really, really rough that day.”

After getting the little girl and Staley out of the water, Penny and Bradshaw were met by friends that had remained on shore to help them out of the water.

In the aftermath of the rescue, beach marker signs were installed to help emergency responders locate incidents on the beach quicker. The brown signs with reflective numbers will assist 911 callers to accurately identify the area to responding units when an incident occurs.

Penny, Staley and Bradshaw earned a Citizen Lifesaving certificate June 7, and will receive medals at a later date by the Hampton Division of Fire and Rescue.