'I really thought I was going to drown': Swimmers rescued at Tracadie Beach

Two women got into trouble while swimming at Tracadie Beach on P.E.I.'s North Shore Sunday.

'Waves don't look as big until you're in them'

The women couldn't get back to the public beach, but managed to make it to another shore. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Two women got into serious trouble while swimming at Tracadie Beach on P.E.I.'s North Shore Sunday.

Mallory Ahern, 20, and a friend, 28, were out on the water between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., and couldn't make it back to the beach.

"We went for a swim to the island," said Mallory Ahern, one of the swimmers, explaining there's a small island in Tracadie harbour. "It was a pretty easy swim... it was great, we had a good time, and then we went back."

Later, the swimmers decided to swim to the island from a different spot on shore, but it didn't go as well. 

"I realized it was a little too wavy and windy, and I decided it was too much and I wanted to turn around and go back. I went to turn back and I couldn't," the 20-year-old recalled tearfully. 

"I tried for probably 10 minutes, 15 minutes and I couldn't make any progress back to the shore — the waves just kept pulling me back out," she said. 

'Thought I was going to drown'

The waves began splashing Ahern in the face and she began to panic, she remembered.

"I'm not a great swimmer... I tried doing a backstroke and the waves kept going over my face and it made me panic," she said, her voice shaking. 

Ahern then began to scream for help, although she said it took several minutes for her friends to hear her because of the high winds.

"My friends on the shore, they noticed I was struggling," she said. They threw her a beach ball they'd been playing with and she grabbed it.

"That pretty much kept me afloat, cause I really thought I was going to drown," she said. "When the beach ball came, it literally saved my life." 

'Just so thankful'

The friend with whom she had been swimming, noticed Ahern was struggling and swam back to where she was clinging to the float. The pair tried together to swim back to shore, but the current kept dragging them back to the ocean, Ahern said. 

"We decided if we swam far enough to the side, we'd be able to catch the current to the island," she said. "On our way... we actually ran into a sandbar, and that's where we stopped." 

When she felt solid land under her feet, Ahern said, she was "just so thankful." 

"As soon as I noticed we were heading toward a sandbar, that's when I realized I wasn't going to die, and it was great," she said. 

Meanwhile, their friends had called 911 — the swimmers heard sirens, and shortly after, a fishing boat operated by a member of the auxiliary coast guard out of Tracadie Harbour picked up the women and returned them to the public beach. They were checked there by Island EMS and released.

"My friends, they did all the right things," Ahern noted. She wanted to thank everyone involved in the rescue.

'You really take life for granted'

And she had warnings for others: make sure you swim with a buddy or that someone on shore is watching you closely. 

"Waves don't look as big until you're in them," she said. "Be careful in water that you're not really 100 per cent familiar with."

Ahern now realizes how lucky she is, she said.

"I know everyone says this after they have a near-death experience, but you really take life for granted until something like this happens." 

North Shore Fire Department Chief Jason Blackman reminded swimmers not to try to swim against the current, but to swim either with it or parallel to it.

The important thing, he said, is to keep enough energy to stay afloat until rescuers can arrive.


With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan and Katerina Georgieva