The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 25, 2013

Limestone County dispatchers save man from Gulf Shores surf

Angels unaware

By Karen Middleton

— It was just a day to catch a few hours basking on a Gulf Shores beach nine days ago when two Limestone County Sheriff’s dispatchers pulled a man to safety after he was swamped by waves.

They say their Sheriff’s Department training prompted them to a fast response.

Tracy Shehorn and Myra Moss were in Gulf Shores to attend a National Emergency Numbers Association meeting and got some time off to sit on the beach when they saw a 70-year-old man in trouble a few feet offshore.

“Myra had gone up to the room to charge her phone,” said Tracy. “She was going to sit by the pool, but she came back down and said she was too cool up there. I had turned my chair away from the sun, and she went to turn her chair when she said, ‘There’s a man in trouble.’”

Shehorn said she and Moss didn’t stop to think about it.

“We just took off running,” she said. “Myra went and grabbed her body board. When we got to him we realized that he was about 6 feet tall and we’re not much more than 5 feet. We couldn’t get him up on the board.”

So the women got their hands under the man’s arms and began to pull him toward shore.

“We were exhausted from fighting the waves by the time we got to shore,” said Tracy. “He had swallowed quite a lot of water. My husband, Larry Shehorn, and another man helped us get him out of the water.”

Moss said she doesn’t understand why “everyone is making such a big deal out of this.”

“We were just in the right place at the right time,” said Moss. “The man had been trying to stand up, but the waves just kept knocking him back down. Eventually, he was flat on his back and the waves were pulling him out into the ocean. He was facing the ocean instead of the shore.

“We got up and Tracy asked his wife if he was OK and his wife said, ‘No!’ Everyone was just standing around not doing anything. I mean like some of them must have known how to swim,” said Moss. “This doesn’t make me feel good if I got put in a predicament like that. You have to ask, ‘Would someone help me?’”

Moss said the man was not so much big as he was a dead weight.

“He couldn’t help us help him,” she said. “People came running once we got him up to the sand.”

Shehorn said the man refused treatment so they helped his wife get him up to his room, where they cleaned the sand from his eyes and nose.

“We were afraid he would get pneumonia,” said Shehorn. “So many older people get it so easy. We told his wife to wake him every two hours. We’ve talked to him since we got home and he is just fine.”

Shehorn and Moss say they have received excellent life-saving training provided by Sheriff Mike Blakely and Lt. Tammy Waddell.

“Without this training, we could have wound up in a different situation,” said Shehorn. “His wife kept saying, ‘These are God’s angels,’ but we don’t feel that way. Every day we sit behind phones and help save lives, but this is the first time we have had to do it ourselves. We didn’t even think about it. God was with us.”

The Sheriff’s Department has divulged that the couple was visiting Gulf Shores from their Tennessee home, but neither the department nor the women would reveal the couple’s names for fear of invading their privacy.

“I am very proud of these officers and that they do an awesome job as dispatchers for the Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Limestone County,” said Blakely. “I’m not surprised that they would risk their lives attempting to save another.”

The sheriff said that Moss and Shehorn were to be commended for their heroic actions.