An off-duty Coast Guard member who was being photographed with his new wife following their wedding ceremony jumped into action to save a teenager from drowning. Zac and Cindy Edwards had just wrapped up their nuptials and were enjoying snapping some photos together on an Alabama beach when a woman screamed that a boy was struggling in the water.
After hearing the desperate cry for help, Cindy immediately urged her new husband to go and assist the young man.
“You have to listen to your wife, or you’re in trouble,” Zac quipped in an interview with Good Morning America.
He knew what he had to do. Zac attempted to get rid of some of his clothes to prevent drag as he swam out to the boy, but time was of the essence. So, still wearing his pants, he dived in, as Cindy waded out in her wedding dress.
“You could just tell by the look on his face he was in difficulty,” Zac told the GMA hosts. “When we first saw him he was about 50 yards out. I took off my shirt, but my wife said I didn’t have time to take off my pants. I ran into the water. I told some kids to go back to the beach and I took a boogie board. I’m so glad I did that.”
Jamel Robinson, 18, was boogie boarding at Shell Beach in Gulf State Park when he was swept out to sea by strong currents. Zac quickly caught up with the terrified young man, and ensured he was propped up on the board with his head above the water.
“I eventually reached him but we were about half a football field away from the shore. He just kept saying “I can’t breathe,”” the petty officer coast guard explained. “I tried to keep his head above water and I propped him up onto the boogie board.”
The off-duty service member then attempted to haul Robinson back to shore, but he was fighting against a fierce tide and began to grow weary. To Cindy’s horror, she saw her new spouse slow down and eventually stop. Then, the pair got dragged out towards the horizon once again.
“The current was really strong and it was stopping us coming in any further,” Zac recalled. “I was starting to panic slightly. The pants were making it hard to kick too.”
At this moment, Orange Beach Fire Department and Orange Beach Surf Rescue arrived on scene and assisted with the rescue.
“But when I saw the first responders I knew it was going to be okay,” he said.
Zac assisted lifeguards in hoisting the teen onto a jetski before hopping on himself and returning to shore. It was only when he got home that the brave coast guard truly realized the peril that the pair were in.
“I didn’t really take in the gravity of the situation until I laid down that night. Afterwards my hands were shaking but the adrenaline was just pumping,” he said.
Cindy added that she “could tell Zac was tiring and they couldn’t get over the current.”
“Thank God the first responders arrived,” she added. “The lifeguards dived into the water and there were helicopters were patrolling the waters. Our emergency services in Orange Beach can’t be commended enough.”
Jamel Robinson thanked Edwards for saving his life.
“I really appreciate that,” he said.
“I just want to thank Mr. Zac for taking the initiative and going out there,” added Jamel’s mom. “I really appreciate him.”
Following the terrifying incident, Zac is determined to warn other beachgoers of the dangers posed by the ocean.
“I think people underestimate the ocean. It wasn’t his fault at all but it was a red flag day,” he said. “People don’t read the signs and swimmers need to be very cautious. Even experienced swimmers can get into difficulty. I wouldn’t let my kids go more than knee deep on a red flag day.”
“In our community 120 people have had to be pulled out of the water in the last few days,” added Cindy. “Our beaches are family friendly and have multiple first responders to keep people safe. They do such a wonderful job but it’s up to us to be water safe too.”
“This is another example of the dedication our members have in service to the people of their nation,” said Capt. Malcolm McLellan, the Commander of Sector Mobile of the United States Coast Guard in a Facebook post. “It shows the true character of a Coastguardsman with a bias for action.”
It is also safe to say that their wedding guests were pretty shocked when the happy couple turned up at the evening reception covered in sand and sea water.
“Our guests were completely lost when we arrived at the reception. I was soaking wet and my dress was covered in sand,” Cindy noted.
Zac added, “I didn’t bring extra clothes to the wedding but I did have some board shorts so I just changed into them.”
Local pastor Glenn Henson, who officiated the ceremony, could not speak more highly of Edwards after the ceremony.
“The fact that this man took time out of his special day to save someone else was really special,” Henson noted. “I talked to Cindy and Zac afterwards and we definitely think it was fate that he was there. It was providential.”
“Hero and hubby in the same day,” added Cindy, who also penned a powerful and faith-filled Facebook post following her eventful wedding day:
“I can say that I had the wedding of my dreams!” she wrote. “I married an amazing guy that was sent from God. He loves unconditionally, cares for people in a way you could only believe by watching this, and a true role model for our children.”
“Zac and I are beyond grateful to the first responders that risk their lives daily saving others. If they would not have come at the moment they did we aren’t sure what would have happened that day. When we saw that over one hundred people were rescued from the waters last week we agreed on the interview with Fox 10 in hopes that our experience could help others.
Zac is in the United States Coast Guard and has background as a rescue swimmer which gave him the skills needed to assist with the rescue. Many people want to help and jump in without such experience which can lead to fatalities. We just want locals and visitors to be aware of what the beach warnings flags mean and take them seriously. Most of all we want more people to talk with their loved ones about the ripe current safety before they enter the waters.
God blessed many lives this week and we forever grateful.”
May God bless this couple as they enter into marriage together!
(H/T: Good Morning America)