Jones to the rescue

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2005

WINTON – Saving lives is old hat to Charles Jones.

While spending a leisurely day on the Outer Banks, Hertford County’s Director of Emergency Services couldn’t escape the call of duty.

Jones was sitting on the beach in Kitty Hawk last Friday with a good friend when he saw a woman running and yelling desperately for help.

&uot;The woman’s daughters had been caught in a rip tide,&uot; Jones said.

The two young girls had drifted over 200 yards away from where they started swimming and were helpless to the power of the strong currents created by Hurricane Irene, which was off the North Carolina coast.

There is a lifeguard stand is about two tenths of a mile from where the girls were and even though lifeguards usually patrol the beach on four-wheelers, Jones knew he had to act.

&uot;I told my friend Roger to call 911 and I grabbed my son’s surfboard,&uot; Jones said.

Jones paddled out to the girls, helped one of the girls onto the board and then handed her off to Roger. Then Jones grabbed the other girl and they brought both of them back to the shore and safety.

The mother quickly whisked the girls away as the lifeguards arrived on the scene. Jones never found out the names of the young girls he saved, but he will never forget the simple words their younger brother shared with him.

&uot;Mister, thank you for saving my sisters’ lives,&uot; the relieved little boy told him.

This was just one of several situations Jones has handled during his vacations at Kitty Hawk.

&uot;My mother has a cottage at the beach and I have been going there my entire life,&uot; Jones said. &uot;I try to keep a surfboard or boogie board around for moments like that.&uot;

&uot;You also have to be very careful when you are trying to save people in these types of situations,&uot; Jones explained. &uot;Sometimes they are panicking and may try to grab you. They will pull you under if you are not careful.&uot;

Jones recalled another story from his summers at Kitty Hawk. Unfortunately, this one ended tragically.

&uot;A man’s daughters were on a raft in the ocean and they began to drift away,&uot; Jones said. &uot;He swam out to pull them pack.&uot;

In his attempt to save his daughters, the man went under. Although the two girls survived, their father did not.

When Jones arrived on the scene, he attempted CPR, but it was too late.

&uot;Talking to families after deaths never gets easier,&uot; Jones added. &uot;It was very sad.&uot;

&uot;People underestimate the power of the ocean,&uot; Jones continued. &uot;I remember a guy who was knocked unconscious by a powerful beach break wave.&uot;

&uot;There have been a lot of rip currents and sand bar activity this year,&uot; Jones said. &uot;Last weekend the ocean was especially rough because of the hurricane. The pull of the current was so strong we followed our boys as they floated on their surfboards. While they floated, we walked down the beach, but we couldn’t keep up with them,&uot; Jones said.

Jones also witnessed a surf board injury caused by the rough water.

Attempting to save people is almost always dangerous, regardless of the consequences, but Jones is undeterred.

&uot;It is very worth it,&uot; Jones said. &uot;Getting injured or drowning never crosses my mind when I am trying to help someone. I have been doing this for 30 years.&uot;