Abby Houlihan

Abby Houlihan

When a Sandwich teenager heard a mother screaming for help at East Sandwich Beach last week, she dropped what she was doing and dove in to help rescue a little boy who had drifted out to sea.

Abby Houlihan of Wolf Hill, a Sandwich High School senior, said she was getting ready to go for a run with a friend after a swim last Thursday morning, June 18, when she heard the woman calling for help.

“I thought she was playing with her kids at first. Then I heard the panic in her voice,” she said.

She looked to the ocean and saw a little boy in an inner tube drifting out to sea. Realizing that the boy was in danger, she dropped her running gear and ran into the water.

Abby said there was a man in the water before she got there and he had managed to help push the little boy closer to shore. The two worked together to get the boy back to safety.

The boy had drifted far enough out that Abby was unable to touch bottom when she got to him. Also, she was far enough out into the ocean that she was afraid of sharks, she said.

Even though the boy was in a scary situation, Abby said he seemed unfazed by the event.

“He was sitting right on top of the tube. His face was completely straight,” she said.

The man told the boy he had given everyone quite the scare, she said. When they got him back on land, the boy’s mother told him never to do that again. Abby said the boy laughed at that.

When the Sandwich Police and Fire departments arrived around 10:40 AM, the boy was already out of the water.

Abby said she does not know who the boy is, only that his name is Joshua and he looked to be about 5 years old.

While Abby is a trained lifeguard going into her second summer at Sandwich beaches, she said that regardless of training she would have gone in to help the boy. Her training might have reduced her response time, though, she said. At the very least, she felt more confident in her ability to rescue a person, she said.

As far as how the boy managed to slip away, she believes it was a combination of the off-shore wind that day as well as the direction of the tide. She said the mother also had another child who was playing at the shoreline. Joshua might have slipped too far for her to leave the other child alone to get him without risking the other child’s safety, too.

Abby said she wants to stress that she did not rescue the boy on her own.

“Thank God for that other man,” she said, adding that she did not catch his name. “I’m so glad he helped out.”

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