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'Heroic rescue': Off-duty Metro Vancouver lifeguard praised for rescuing drowning man

The 19-year-old off-duty lifeguard leapt into action and began doing chest compressions on the unconscious male.
A lifeguard at the Crescent Beach Swimming Club is being praised for saving a man at the Surrey, B.C. beach in August 2022. The club warns of swimming risks.

"She did everything right." 

A Metro Vancouver lifeguard is being lauded for her "heroic rescue" of a man who was drowning at a local beach.

Crescent Beach Life Guarding Corporation (CBLG) head Morgan Brewster says Emma Baecker "sprung into action" when she was informed that an unconscious man was pulled from the water.

"She provided immediate life-saving measures to that man, who certainly needed them... he wasn't breathing when he came out of the water," he told Vancouver Is Awesome. 

On Tuesday (Aug.16) around 7:30 p.m., several people noticed that a man in the water of the roped-off area at Crescent Beach was awkwardly and slowly slapping the water and "silently coming up for air," according to a Facebook post

After a couple of minutes, one of the onlookers asked his sister to swim up to him and see if he was unconscious. After discovering that he was, the sister and two other women helped drag him to shore.

The roped-off area is not patrolled by lifeguards after 7 p.m. but Baecker was teaching a paddleboard lesson on a nearby dock.

When she was informed about the situation, the 19-year-old off-duty lifeguard leapt into action and began doing chest compressions on the unconscious male. 

Firefighters arrived at the scene a few minutes later and transported the individual to hospital where he was discharged a few days later.

Tides at Crescent Beach and safety considerations

Katie Brook, a social worker who was one of the women who helped the drowning man, told the CBLG that Baecker's expertise helped save the man's life. She noted that she didn't recognize that the victim was drowning at first. 

"I think I probably had an unrealistic conception of what drowning looked like. Part of me thought they’d be screaming or calling for help. I would have thought that it would look more frantic and that’s why we didn’t think he was drowning," she said. 

"So it's sort of a reminder to all of us on how quickly things can change when you're swimming in the ocean," Brewster added. "And in this case, the victim was a 'non-swimmer' and we want the public to know that the ocean is different than a pool. There can be a drop-off, there [are] current winds, and [there are] all kinds of factors that can affect your ability to swim there."

Baecker, who is in her second year of guarding at Crescent Beach, echoed this sentiment, adding that swimming is particularly dangerous when the area is unguarded at night and in the early morning.  

"That's because the sea floor drops off into the nearby boat channel and there is often a fierce ocean current that brings the tide in and out of Boundary Bay twice each day," she explained in the social media post.

This is the ninth rescue at Crescent Beach this summer, which is a significant increase from prior years, Brewster said. While he didn't have the statistics at hand, he noted that a typical year sees less than five. 

"And we're attributing it just to how busy the beaches [have] become in this post-COVID era," he said, adding that Surrey's population also continues to grow. 

"The main message is the reminder of the risks of swimming in the ocean and just taking the proper precautions before you enter the water."