25 12th Avenue South, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Five teenagers screamed for help as they clung to barnacle-covered poles at the Naples Pier on Thursday afternoon.
Rip currents left over from Tropical Storm Debby pulled the swimmers out. Naples firefighters pulled them back in.
One of the boys was pulled to shore with a net used to rescue pelicans, but the water was too rough for anyone else to swim out to the other four.
Around 3:30 p.m., the Naples firefighters arrived, rescue swimmer Travis Wright hopped on a paddleboard and swam a 14-year-old girl to shore. EMT driver Steve Kofsky helped the other three get back.
"It was pretty rough getting back in. It took quite a bit of swimming," Wright said. "I mean, I'm one of the divers on the dive team and a rescue swimmer. I couldn't see how those kids could have made it back in."
The 14-year-old girl was taken to an area hospital for scratches from the barnacles, Wright said. The other girl and the three boys had smaller scrapes but were not hospitalized.
Wright said the rescue was the Fire Department's first using the paddleboard, which it has only had for about two months.
"They were very thankful," he said of the swimmers. "It was real nice to be able to use that new piece of equipment and get a good save out of it instead of just doing training."