“It was just instinct,” said Adam Smothers, 17, a rising senior at Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw. “If someone needs help, go help them.”
Smothers said he was boogie-boarding with his girlfriend, Hannah Manross, when they heard someone screaming for help. He sent Manross back to the shore and swam out to bring him back to shore.
But when he was swimming back to shore, he heard a second victim calling for help, so he headed back out into the water.
“The rip current picked up when we were about halfway to shore and took us out about 100 to 200 yards back out,” Smothers said. “The water was cold, so you knew it was pretty deep.”
Smothers said the second victim was having trouble breathing and fading in and out of consciousness while he was trying to pull him to shore.
“Finally, the current kicked back up and kicked us back to the shore,” he said. “When I was out there with the guy, it was the worst feeling ever. I kept getting pulled back, not going anywhere. The adrenaline kicked in, and somehow I got him on shore.”
Manross’ mother, Deanna Manross, flagged down someone to call 911, and paramedics took the second victim to the hospital and gave Smothers oxygen to lower his heart rate.
Deanna Manross said she believed Adam was able to pull the two men to shore because he is an athlete.
“He had the strength and stamina to hold this young man who was unconscious on the board and swim around the rip current,” she said.
Smothers said he later learned that the two men were running a Jet Ski rental booth, but he never got their names.
He never went swimming again, despite spending another five days at the beach with his girlfriend’s family.
“I would sit on the sand but wouldn’t go back in the water,” he said. “This was the worst I had ever seen (the water.)”
Smothers’ father, Philip Smothers, said he is proud of his son.
“Adam has always been an impulsive kid — which at times has given me great anxiety — and he has always, always risen to the occasion when challenged,” Philip Smothers said. “Adam was the perfect person to be there on the beach that day because he acted immediately and saved those guys’ lives.”
According to news reports on June 11, the two victims Smothers saved were among 11 pulled from the water that day.