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Victoria firefighter commended helping to save American tourist in Hawaii

Dec 11 2012

A Victoria firefighter has earned a letter of commendation from his department after helping to save an American tourist who ran into trouble off a Hawaiian beach.

Victoria firefighter Cody Gidney was on a remote section of Kauai beachfront known as Barking Sands last month when an Indiana man was swept into the ocean by a strong current.

As luck would have it, both Gidney, who was on his honeymoon, and a fellow firefighter from San Rafael, California, were nearby during the Nov. 12 incident.

A friend of the victim said the fact that two firefighters happened to be in the vicinity was an incredible piece of luck.

"Our friend was really moving out pretty quick in a riptide," said Chuck Heinrich from his Indiana home.

"You talk about God being present on a beach," he said.

"They didn't know us, we didn't know them and they didn't know each other."

The American firefighter got to the friend first, with Gidney not far behind.

"We were just sitting on the beach and I noticed Chuck going up and getting a lifesaving buoy from one of the unmanned lifeguard stations," Gidney said.

Then he spotted the two men in the water.

"I ran up and grabbed another buoy and a body board and swam out." All three were soon floating safely back to shore.

Heinrich, a retired police officer, said he is grateful to the firefighters for getting involved, despite the risks. He said that he, for one, would have been hard-pressed to help.

"I'm 65 and I'm not that great a swimmer."

In a note to Victoria Fire Chief Jeff Lambert and his counterpart in San Rafael, Heinrich said both fire-fighters responded to a life-threatening situation to save the life of a perfect stranger.

In 2007, while a rookie in the Victoria department, Gidney assisted a hiker on the West Coast Trail who had fallen off a log bridge.

He assessed her injuries - which turned out not to be serious - and helped a pair of park wardens in preparing her to be hoisted to a rescue helicopter.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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