A pregnant mother saved three girls from drowning in Lake Michigan. She had no idea this would happen when she took her children — ages six, three, and two — to the beach one afternoon. In fact, Alyssa DeWitt, 27, almost canceled the trip because of the strong winds.
“I’d packed them into the van, and we sat there for probably five minutes, and I wasn’t sure if we should go because the sand was whipping hard,” said DeWitt. “But I felt like we needed to go.”
When they arrived, DeWitt decided to bring her children to the right side of the beach, near the pier. “I’ve always taken them to the left, so I’m not sure why I chose that side that day. And I don’t really think it was a coincidence that I did,” she said. That’s when she saw the girls struggling against the water.
“I am not going to let you die out here”
DeWitt, who is five months pregnant, had noticed the girls previously. “I had watched that group of girls get into the water right by the pier, and I remember thinking to myself at one point that they were getting pretty far out there. At one point, I looked up and saw one girl waving her arms at me from the water.“
Jumping into action, DeWitt gathered her kids and told them to stay put while she ran onto the pier. At that point, the waves shoved the girls into rocks as they fought to keep their heads above the water. She tried to call 911 but the wind was so loud, she couldn’t hear the dispatcher. “I scanned the beach to see if they could help me and there was nobody. It was just myself, my kids, and that group of girls.“
Keeping 911 on the line, she put down her phone, lay on her stomach, and stretched her arms toward the girls. “The waves were so big that they were just getting thrown everywhere. I pretty much had to lean over as far as I could and pull as hard I could to get them in. There were times when a wave would come and smash us and knock the girls down, and we’d have to start over.“
Often, DeWitt herself began slipping into the water. However, despite the danger, she refused to give up. “My big turning point in that entire situation was when one of the girls looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to die.’ I just got this boost of adrenaline, and I looked at her and said, ‘I am not going to let you die out here. I promise you I am going to get you out of this water.'”
She Saves Girls From Drowning
Somehow, DeWitt pulled three of the girls on the pier and helped the fourth girl, who was more inland, walk back to shore. The girls were between the ages of 9 to 15, according to DeWitt. By the time the group reached the beach, police and fire officials arrived. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Even DeWitt and her unborn baby went unscathed. “I was so relieved; the adrenaline rush was crazy… Lots of hugs and tears shared. I’m pretty sure at one point I said, ‘don’t ever do that again.’ It was just the mama in me,” DeWitt said.
During the entire rescue, DeWitt’s two-year-old tried to run out to her several times. However, the six-year-old took care of him, picking him up, and carrying him back to the sand. “She stayed really calm,” said DeWitt. “I was super proud of her.“
Meanwhile, Manistee City Police Chief Josh Glass called DeWitt a hero. “When you have someone who puts their safety aside to help strangers, it’s amazing,” he said to Fox5 Washington DC. “She could’ve easily said ‘It’s too dangerous to go out there‘ but she stayed and her tenacity absolutely saved those kids.
“When we have an everyday, ordinary citizen — a mom at the beach with her own kids — that just puts the (superhero) cape on and gets to work and does something so heroic and so above expectations, I think it’s important that we recognize her,” Glass said on Today.
“It can happen so fast”
DeWitt shared her story on Facebook to raise awareness of water safety. After all, it takes only seconds for a child’s head to go under the water.
“I really hope that now that summer is here that parents are really grilling their kids about water safety and that they understand how dangerous the water is, and these piers [on Lake Michigan],” she wrote. “Kids think they’re invincible, but it happened so fast and [the girls] got so tired so quickly. They were very lucky that someone was there to save them.”
After DeWitt had time to process the incident, she began thinking about “all the different ways that it could have gone.” In fact, she could have fallen into the water herself, with her children waiting for her at the beach.
“I know those big waves are fun.. and you never expect to find yourself in that situation…” she wrote, “but it can happen so fast. It’s not worth the risk, it’s just not.”
- “Pregnant Manistee mom who saved girls from Lake Michigan gives details of rescue.” Detroit Free Press. Kyle Davidson. June 5, 2021
- “‘I’m not going to let you die’: Pregnant mother rescues 3 girls from drowning in Lake Michigan.” The Independent. June 7, 2021
- ‘I’m not going to let you die’: Pregnant mother rescues 3 girls from drowning in Lake Michigan. Fox5 Washington DC. Kelly Hayes. June 2, 2021.
- “Heroic pregnant mom saves 3 drowning children from lake.” Today. Chrissy Callahan. May 28, 2021
- “Mom shares summer water safety warning after saving girls from drowning.” ABC News. Katie Kindelan. June 8, 2021