Air Force Reservist saves critically injured teens after watercraft accident
By Maj. Cathleen Snow, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 07, 2015
SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. -- Like millions of Americans, Senior Master Sgt. Steph Schwarz was looking forward to watching the NFL playoffs Sunday afternoon. Instead, he ended up responding to the scene of an accident that played out in his backyard.
"I heard a crash from outside that was loud enough to make me jump out of my chair," said Schwarz, who is a combat flight engineer with the Air Force Reserve's 920th Rescue Wing at nearby Patrick Air Force Base.
Seeing a young man lying in a pool of blood on top of his backyard wooden boat dock was not what he expected. But with his 27 years' experience in Air Force Rescue and multiple combat deployments under his belt, he reacted swiftly.
He rushed to the man asking if he was okay. "'Help my girl,' was all he could say pointing at the salt water canal next to the dock," Schwarz said.
That's when he saw a woman floating face down in the canal that channeled off the intercoastal River.
At that point, Schwarz yelled for his 17-year-old son to call 911 as Schwarz bolted into the saltwater canal.
"I pulled her face out of the water. She was unconscious, so I woke her up. She started hyperventilating and looked like she saw a ghost."
Schwarz determined she was in shock and began comforting her, telling her everything was going to be okay.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) the accident happened shortly before 2 p.m., when a male and female, both 19 years old, were riding a personal watercraft.
"I didn't even see the Jet Ski until after I was in the water, and that's when it all came together for me," he said.
The watercraft was lodged underneath his dock which bent the metal ladder attached to the dock and sent debris floating about the water.
The teens' uncle saw the whole thing from afar and rushed to the scene to help Schwarz hoist the girl onto the dock.
Investigators believe the watercraft throttle got stuck, sending the two teens slamming into his dock, injuring them critically.
"The experience I have from being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and responding to victims of Hurricane Katrina definitely helped."
Emergency workers arrived within five minutes and rushed both victims to the hospital. Rescuers took the man by helicopter and the woman was transported by ground to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.
The FWC has not released the names of the victims, but reported both underwent surgery.
Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th Rescue Wing Commander, said Schwarz is a hero.
Schwarz has since learned that the young woman broke her pelvis and the young man broke multiple bones in his legs. But both teens are expected to recover.
"The important thing is, they are both going to be okay," said Schwarz.