Visiting officer rescues father, son from Longboat riptide

Editor & Publisher

The near drowning of a father and son threatened to turn a sunny morning on Longboat Key into tragedy.

At about 10:30 a.m. last Tuesday, a vacationing family at the Silver Sands Beach Resort decided to go for a swim.

The father, a tall man of about 6’ 2,” headed into the gulf front waters with his son who was about two years old. As it turns out, the mother and father’s smart move of putting floaties on the young boy’s arms helped save the day.

Within minutes, a strong rip tide pulled the toddler and his father quickly offshore. The father attempted to stay close to the toddler but was quickly running out of energy.

Fortunately, off-duty police officer Ermir Vila from Shelby Township in Michigan dove in to the rescue.  Officer Vila expended all of his energy bringing the victim to shore who was completely exhausted by the rip current.

The victim had been pulled far off shore and was drowning. As Officer Vila steadily pulled the man back toward shore, Chris Walmsley from Jacksonville jumped in to help. Walmsley along with Jennifer Howell helped Officer Vila pull the man to shore.

The man was barely responding and many times his head went under water.

As soon as Howell was about to employ CPR, the man opened his eyes and began responding. Soon EMS showed up and transported him to Blake Medical Center.

The boy was fortunate to have the water wings on, and although he drifted offshore, was able to be retrieved without injury. Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said if it wasn’t for the floaties, the child would have drowned.

Officer Vila was honored by Chief Dezzi, and Dezzi said that the officer responded immediately and faced great danger in swimming out in the rip current. Dezzi awarded Officer Vila a Longboat Key Medal of Honor and sent it to the Police Chief in Shelby to present to Vila.

Officer Vila remains humble about the entire event and said he does not feel he deserves any special attention and that he and the officers he works with try their best to help others every day and he doesn’t feel he deserves any special attention.

Obviously, Officer Vila did not come down from Michigan to Longboat Key with a plan to rescue a swimmer. He and his wife, Gina, decided to visit Longboat with their two daughters because the island got rave reviews from a fellow co-worker who visited two weeks prior.

“Longboat Key is gorgeous, it is clean and beautiful and the people are great,” said Vila.

Gina calmed the boy while his mother and father went to the hospital.

For Officer Vila, he is extremely happy that he and the victim became good friends as they all continued their vacation at the Silver Sands. Vila says he can’t wait to come back to Longboat Key.

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Longboat Key News

5 Responses for “Visiting officer rescues father, son from Longboat riptide”

  1. Kenneth;Dale;;Sr. Hardesty says:

    Good job brother bull. You did yourself proud.

  2. Filja Kosova says:

    Great Job my dear ALBANIAN BROTHER You made us all proud God Bless you and Your Family

  3. Great job officer Vila, God bless you and your family and all the good people!

  4. Valerie JTrowe says:

    Wonderful thing you did to help save a life while risking your own. So many officers like you, doing this on a daily basis. God bless you.

  5. Frank Del says:

    Great work and dedication by a brother in blue! God bless you and your family for risking your life to save a stranger!

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