West Allis Firefighter rescues four children who nearly drowned on vacation

NOW: West Allis Firefighter rescues four children who nearly drowned on vacation

A local firefighter is being hailed as a hero, after rescuing four children from a rip current in Lake Michigan. 

Jeff Cavett was on vacation with his family on July 27th, enjoying a warm summer day in Manistee, Michigan. 

A green flag alerted swimmers on the beach that conditions were ripe for swimming. 

But Cavett says conditions quickly changed, as whitecaps began building off-shore.

That's when his eyes caught a young boy being swept out into the lake. 

    "The child went underwater once, and another wave crashed over him, and he went under again," he says. 

Cavett, an experienced swimmer, dove in and swam through the rough waters to the boy. 

    "I went underwater, came up in front of him, and scooped him up above the waves," he says. "He was still breathing at the time, but he was screaming and crying for his parents."

Cavett brought that child back to shore, and minutes later, noticed two more children in a similar situation. 

    "I could see them moving backward toward the lake, and I took off underwater again." 

By the time he reached those two, Cavett says they were in bad shape.

    "He would have died, there's no doubt," says Cavett of the boy. "He was on his last breath by the time I got to him. The little girl, she was underwater at least 4 or 5 times by the time I got to her. I believe she would have drowned as well." 

Minutes later, Cavett rescued a fourth child, who he estimates was more than 100 feet off shore. 

    "It was obvious that he was caught in a rip," he says. 

Cavett says paramedics responded, and all four children checked out okay. 

Back home, Cavett kept the rescue under wraps. Even his own deputy-chief didn't know, until a small paper in Manistee ran an article on Cavett's heroics. 

He says he was simply in the right place, at the right time. He grew up vacationing at that beach, and has always been an avid swimmer. 

    "From all the skills I've learned with how much I love being in the water, to be able to be there for those kids on that day, to give them another birthday, another Christmas, to me that was the reward," he says. 

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