Tyler Feagan, 18, and Dillon Humphries, 17, both seniors at South Paulding, were able to bring two people to safety with the help of a lifeguard as they visited Panama City Beach, Fla., April 10.
“They’re great young men,” said South Paulding Assistant Principal Dianna Moyer.
Hiram residents Feagan, son of Jason and Sara Feagan, and Humphries, son of Wayne and Dena Humphries, were standing on a sandbar closest to the shore in knee-deep water about 2 p.m. when they heard a man and woman call out as they stood on a second, outer sandbar caught in what a TV station called “the deceptive rip currents” near the beach’s City Pier.
“They were both screaming,” Feagan recalled.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The South Paulding seniors have traveled with their families to Panama City Beach for at least six spring breaks since the middle of the last decade, Humphries said.
He said the man and woman were about 130 feet from shore, and he was able to reach the woman, identified as Tatiana Nelthrope of Atlanta, and carry her to safety.
“She didn’t really know what was going on,” he said.
However, Feagan had a more difficult time when he reached the man, Melvin Todd of Atlanta, who appeared to be unable to swim as the water took him out to sea, he said.
“He began to push me down to breath,” Feagan said, noting the man was trying to use him as a flotation device. “I told him to look at me and calm down.”
Feagan was able to get the man to breathe through his nose before he pulled him to safety. A lifeguard quickly arrived to assist Feagan after seeing the incident unfold.
He said they chose to help the man and woman rather than taking the time to go for help because he and Humphries instinctively knew quick action was needed.
“I just think it’s our personality,” he said. “If someone saw me or someone else in the same situation, I would hope they would do the same thing.”
Todd is a tattoo artist at City of Ink studio in Atlanta. He currently is a cast member on the competitive reality show, “Best Ink,” which recently premiered on the cable TV channel Oxygen.
He and Nelthrope were in Panama City Beach on vacation and playing in the waves when they got caught in the rip current. Though he knows how to swim, Todd had become exhausted as the current pushed him and girlfriend Tatiana out to sea.
“I can’t stress enough how close it was to being the end,” he said.
He said Feagan and Humphries made the rescue look “effortless.”
“Tyler got me out [but] I made it hard on him,” Todd said, laughing.
He said show officials already have granted his request that the two students’ names be included on the official “Best Ink” blog.
“I just want to do so much for them,” he said.