Days like June 29 are why Palm Beach Gardens police officer Bethany Guerriero puts on her uniform and comes to work.
It was early in her shift when a young woman found herself stuck in a drainage pipe at Lake Catherine along MacArthur Boulevard. People were at the lake for a fishing camp, and the directors noticed a woman swimming in it toward the drain. When they didn’t see her anymore, they called for help.
The scene was hectic when Guerriero arrived. The field training officer who’s been with the department since 2004 sensed panic, she said.
“Desperation is really the best way I could describe it,” she said.
Nobody swims at Lake Catherine Park, an indication something was amiss. Without hesistating, she took off her gear and got in the water with the woman. The woman had to have her face up against the top of the cement to breathe because there was so little space, Guerriero said.
She inched her way toward Guerriero’s voice by laying on her back, holding her breath and swimming underwater. Guerriero was eventually able to grab the leg of her pants. Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue spokesman Keith Bryer had said the woman was wearing clothes and shoes. No one is certain what she was doing in the lake.
Guerriero was able to establish a rapport with the stuck swimmer. It took about a half hour for police and Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue personnel to free her, Guerriero said. Other than being confused, she was okay, Guerriero said. Emergency personnel haven’t identified her because of a health information privacy law. She was taken to the hospital for examination.
Both women had to be decontaminated. The lake was pretty stagnant, and Guerriero was covered in algae, dirt and sand. Lake Catherine is also home to alligators, she said. But she wasn’t thinking about her own safety.
“That’s always an after-thought,” she said.
She didn’t have any spare uniforms in her car or her locker, she said. A fireman gave her spare shorts and a T-shirt so she could go home, pick up another uniform and return to work for the rest of her shift. The city recognized her with an award and presented her with a photo of her during the incident at a Spirit Team breakfast this past week, during which several city employees were honored.
It’s all in a day’s work for Guerriero.
“This is why I come out every day. This is why I put the uniform on,” Guerriero said Thursday at the park.
Water rescue one of most rewarding — and bizarre — calls for Palm Beach Gardens officer
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