By Russ Lang
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (February 28, 2023) -- With over 60 miles of beautiful beaches that attract over twenty million people every year, Myrtle Beach is one of the top vacation destinations in the United States. Its white sandy beaches and endless water activities provide a fun-packed time for vacationers and residents alike.
Unfortunately, from time to time, ocean fun can become dangerous. Such was the case during the evening hours of July 3rd, 2022. On that evening, Horry County Police Patrolman 1st Class Joseph Dodd, a member of the beach patrol, was conducting a routine patrol of the beach near the State Park on South Kings Highway. As he reached the end of a stretch of beach, he turned around to continue his patrol when his headlights showed something in the water.
“I saw what appeared to be someone in the water approximately 75 feet from the shore. When I got to the edge of the water, I could hear a man yelling for help,” said Officer Dodd who is an American Red Cross Certified Emergency Medical Responder and Red Cross Certified Life Guard.
Officer Dodd knew he had to act quick to save the life of this obviously exhausted man. Dodd radioed for assistance and prepared for the rescue. Myrtle Beach Lifeguards end their shifts at 5:00 PM, so Dodd realized he was on his own until help could arrive. In the dark, he suited up in his department-issued water rescue suit, retrieved his lifeguard rescue can, and prepared to enter the water. Officer Dodd, a former rescue swimmer with the Coast Guard, began swimming toward the man.
“The currents in this area can be difficult to navigate through, and I could see the man was struggling to stay afloat,” said Officer Dodd.
Officer Dodd finally reached the man and saw that he was not moving due to extreme exhaustion. Dodd, tired himself, wasn’t sure he would be able to rescue-swim the adult man to shore without putting his and the life of the victim in more danger. He had to make a decision -- should he stay with the man and wait for additional units to arrive, or should he find a way to safely bring the man and himself to shore? As the man grew more exhausted, Patrolman Dodd knew he had to bring the mad in as soon as possible.
“Even with the rescue can, I didn’t think he could stay afloat much longer,” said Officer Dodd as he described what happened.
He decided the only way to get him in was by “towing” him. He had the victim grab and hold on to the rescue can, and with the cans, short rope in his own hand began swimming toward shore. This is a rescue strategy that is taught in Red Cross Lifesaving Courses. After what felt like an “eternity”, both men, completely tired, reached the shore. Additional units had arrived by this time and the man was examined by EMS personnel and aside from suffering from exhaustion, was found to be OK.
Patrolman 1st Class Dodd was born in England and moved to the United States to join the Coast Guard. After completing his duty with the Coast Guard, he moved to Maryland and became a paramedic. His love for the Ocean led him to Myrtle Beach, where he began his career with the Horry County Police Department’s Beach Patrol. Patrolman Dodd credits his Red Cross training in part, to this successful rescue.
Horry County Police Department Beach Safety Coordinator, Duke Brown, believes Patrolman Dodd’s actions, without a doubt, saved this mans life. Brown went on to say, “Patrolman Dodd’s quick action and dedication to duty surely prevented a tragic drowning."
For Officer Dodd's extraordinary lifesaving actions, the American Red Cross is recognizing Officer Dodd by awarding him the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders. This award is presented to individuals or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.
At Tuesday's Lifesaving Awards event, Officer Rick Crouse with the Horry County Police Department was also awarded the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award for administering CPR and Narcan to an unresponsive person on the beach last year, ultimately saving their life. Additionally, Horry County Police Department Beach Safety Coordinator, Duke Brown, received the American Red Cross Lifesaving Instructor Award at the event. Brown teaches CPR to the Horry County Police Officers, and has been a Red Cross CPR instructor for over 40 years.
To learn more about American Red Cross Lifesaving Courses, go to www.redcross.org/takeaclass.