By Dave Rogers
---- — SALISBURY — A veteran firefighter is being hailed as a hero after he swam roughly 70 yards into the Atlantic Ocean to rescue a female swimmer in distress Tuesday evening.
Capt. Dana Chouinard, a former lifeguard who joined the department in 1979, was one of the first to respond to a report of a woman who swam too far from the beach near Broadway.
Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said shortly after 10 p.m., the woman’s boyfriend approached Sgt. Eugene Scione and told him that his girlfriend had gone out swimming but did not come back. Police then called for fire rescue assistance and Chouinard was one of the first to respond.
Chouinard said it took a few moments to find the woman in the water, but eventually he heard her beginning to scream. With headlights trained on the shoreline, Chouinard stripped down to his pants and shirt, grabbed a flotation device called a torpedo boy and waded into the water. Low tide was at 8:30 p.m., meaning the tide was coming in at the time of the incident.
Chouinard said the ocean was relatively calm with small rolling waves. Asked if the water was cold, Chouinard said it wasn’t too bad.
“It didn’t seem that cold, but I was thinking I am going to do it no matter what,” Chouinard said.
By the time Chouinard reached her, he could tell she was near exhaustion and needed to be dragged back to shore. Using his lifeguard training and the knowledge passed from his father, also a former lifeguard, he safely guided her to the point where their feet touched bottom.
An ambulance arrived at 10:20 p.m. and transported the victim to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport for observation.
Salisbury fire Chief Richard Souliotis said Chouinard’s bravery that evening was standard for the longtime firefighter.
“He did a great job,” Souliotis said.
Police are continuing their investigation into the incident, but Fowler said the victim is 27 years old and lives in Watertown.