By B.J. Drye, Editor
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 —
A Charlotte teen who was rescued from Badin Lake Sunday afternoon remains in critical condition at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
Ruvi Miguel Orozco Lopez, 17, was there with a few friends when he went under shortly after 1:30 p.m. near the buoys, Badin Police Chief Bryan Lambert said.
Gary Lee Williams of Albemarle, who had arrived just about 30 minutes earlier, saw the young man go under and swam to the area where he was able to pull him out and drag him near the bank, Lambert said.
But this wasn’t the first time Williams played a key role this day. He had already pulled the 17-year-old and one of his friends from the lake before the near drowning happened.
“They had swam out to the buoy line and were tired and couldn’t get back to shore,” Williams said.
Before he could get settled back down, Williams said, the young man’s friend was asking him to save his friend again.
He knew taking a floatation device would slow himself down, so Williams scurried off as fast as he could to reach the 17-year-old.
Even though his 250 pounds nearly doubles the size of the 17-year-old, Williams said the feat was mostly enabled by adrenaline.
“It was pumping so hard. When I saw him going under, I just took off as fast as I could,” he said.
“The only way I could track him was by the air bubbles. I had to dive several times to save him,” Williams said.
Williams was assisted by a small group of swimmers who helped with ropes and floats to get the young man to shore.
On land, Williams was able to begin chest compressions and the man began breathing for a time, but then stopped.
Stanly County Sheriff’s Deputy Lynwood Butler, who patrols lake activity, and his son, Badin Police Officer Steven Butler, just happened to both get the call to the scene.
The pair performed CPR for about 10 minutes until Badin Volunteer Fire Department and Stanly County EMS arrived on the scene.
“Everybody did what needed to be done,” Lynwood Butler said.
“They did a great job on cleaning his airway out. He had gotten a lot of water in.”
Williams believes he was meant to be there. He and his girlfriend had already enjoyed the lake a few times last week and were uncertain as to whether to go. But they did.
“If I hadn’t been there, this gentleman would have died. No one would have known what was going on,” Williams said.
“In 10 years of me being chief here, I’ve never seen someone pulled out alive,” Lambert said.
Many of the parties involved spoke of the language barrier present between the saved individual and the rescuers, but the language of human instinct, and, for some, maybe a little help from above, played out on this Sunday afternoon.
“It was a blessing from God that the young man is still alive,” Williams said.
The incident fostered Williams’ appreciation for first responders and emergency personnel.
“This experience has given me a profound understanding and respect for the work the police and EMS do to protect us every day,” he said.
Butler and Williams offer a few tips to lessen the chance of a drowning.
“If you can’t swim and want to go out to the deep water, you need to wear a life jacket,” said Butler, who believes the 17-year-old was either not a swimmer or an inexperienced one.
He spoke of the donation of child life jackets by Alcoa earlier this year.
“I’ve never pulled out a drowning with a life jacket on,” he said.
“I’ve probably assisted with 50 drownings out there at the lakes.
“That should wake up people.
“If you can’t swim, don’t go over your head.”
Williams said most of the people he sees at the lake are responsible swimmers, but he does suggest taking a float for even experience swimmers, like himself.
“Take a float in case someone does get in trouble. They could use the float to get out there,” he said.
To submit story ideas, contact B.J. Drye at email@example.com or (704) 982-2121 ext. 25.