Teens honored for park drowning rescue

July 23, 2013

By Erin Hoffman

In August 2012, cousins Patrick Finigan, 16, and Ian Fursman, 15, became heroes when a trip to Lake Sammamish State Park turned into a rescue.

The boys started to notice trouble when a girl between the ages of 12 and 14 began to struggle in the water, calling for help. The girl’s friends swam back to shore to get someone to help their friend. Finigan swam out and pulled the drowning girl back to safety.

By Greg Farrar King County Sheriff John Urquhart reads commendations July 16 honoring Patrick Finigan (left), 16, of Orting, and his cousin Ian Fursman, 15, of Snoqualmie.

By Greg Farrar
King County Sheriff John Urquhart reads commendations July 16 honoring Patrick Finigan (left), 16, of Orting, and his cousin Ian Fursman, 15, of Snoqualmie.

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old boy had slipped under the water, so Finigan returned to the water and dove about 6 feet below the surface and pulled him up. Fursman assisted, helping his cousin pull the boy back to shore.

The girl was shaken up, but mostly fine, but the boy was aspirating water. Finigan, who received his CPR certification through his health class at Sumner High School, laid the boy on his side and checked his pulse and breathing. After assessing the situation, he determined that the boy did not need CPR.

Finigan and Fursman had a bystander call 911 while they tended to the near-drowning victim. The boy threw up more water, but he regained consciousness. He knew his name, but was otherwise disoriented. An ambulance arrived to take him to a hospital, where he received treatment and made a full recovery.

On July 16, King County Sheriff John Urquhart presented Finigan and Fursman with Meritorious Service Awards and Commendations at a press conference at Gene Coulon Beach Park in Renton. Corrina Wells, of Renton, was also honored (by Renton Mayor Denis Law) for rescuing a drowning man at Gene Coulon Beach Park in May.

Tony Gomez, co-chairman of the King County Drowning Prevention Network, praised Finigan and Fursman for their act of bravery.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and these were some of the best I’ve ever seen,” he said of the rescues.

“It’s nice that we got some recognition,” Finigan said. “We didn’t say anything when it happened. We didn’t think much of it.”

“It was the first time I’d done something like this, so it was a pretty good feeling,” Fursman added.

Finigan’s parents, John and Karen, said they were proud of their son and their nephew, although John was surprised because Patrick “has never even had a swimming lesson.”

“I think it’s great for teenagers to be recognized for the good they do,” Karen said. “I was glad when they took action. There were a lot of people on the beach that day that didn’t.”

The Fursman family was also proud of the boys for their lifesaving achievement.

“I was surprised they pulled it off, but not surprised they took initiative,” Jeremy Fursman, Ian’s father, said.

Last year, 24 people in King County died by drowning, and two-thirds of those incidents happened in open water. Of those deaths, nine occurred during the months of July and August, a number that might have been higher if it were not for Finigan and Fursman, according to Law.

“Without the quick action of citizens who wish to get involved, lives will be lost,” Law said.

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn spoke at the press conference about water safety, urging those in attendance to always wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets in open water, to choose to swim in lifeguarded beaches and to never mix alcohol and swimming.

After accepting their award, Finigan and Fursman said a few words about water safety, telling the audience to remain calm in emergency situations, to keep current on CPR certifications and to always take safety precautions when swimming.

Urquhart spoke last to wrap up the ceremony.

“Coming to rescue someone is not for the faint of heart,” he said.

He noted that Lake Sammamish State Park used to have lifeguards, but lost them due to budget cuts. He urged City Council members in attendance to work with the state Legislature to increase funding for parks so those lifeguards could be reinstated.

“Lifeguards save lives,” he said, “and Patrick and Ian can’t always be around.”

Finigan is entering his junior year at Sumner High School, and Fursman is entering his sophomore year at Eastside Catholic High School.

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