‘Only right choice was to jump in’ says man who rescued sisters at beach

Man from South Bend, Ind. rescued two women drowning in Lake Michigan on July 12 in St. Joseph. One died a few days later.
Posted at 8:05 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 20:05:37-04

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — When Hugo Gutierrez saw two women drowning in Lake Michigan on Sunday July 12, he didn't think first about jumping in, he said

He just did it.

“I felt like I didn’t have a choice, like there was no choice,” Gutierrez said during a phone interview with FOX 17 on Friday July 17. “The only right choice was to jump in. So, that’s what I did.”

Gutierrez said he was at Lions Park Beach that day, celebrating his nephew’s birthday when his son came running up to him saying that two women were drowning in the water.

“My instinct reaction was just to get in there and get the one lady face down, to get her out as soon as possible," Gutierrez said. "Then after I did that, I went for the other lady that was on the seawall."

He said the other woman was clinging to the seawall. So he climbed it, grabbed her and brought her to shore. Meanwhile nurses, who happened to be on the beach at that time, were tending to the first woman he rescued.

“Then there was another guy that actually towards the end that helped me take the other lady out which I’m so grateful for,” Gutierrez said.

Minutes later the paramedics arrived and tended to both women, who the Berrien County Sheriffs Office later identified as sisters.

Gutierrez wondered though why there weren't any safety equipment stationed near or on the beach.

“I been going there my whole life and it was always a beach. And this year, it’s not a beach no more. It’s more like a sea wall,” Gutierrez said. “So, I mean, life rings would’ve made a big difference I think. It would’ve gave more people the power to do something.”

The women were then driven to Lakeland Hospital. One remained there in critical condition. Days later, she died on Wednesday July 15.

“My condolences go out to the family,” he said.

Gutierrez said he hopes his actions will bring the family some closure. He’s just grateful he didn’t wait to act.

“I wasn’t going to let her go down because I just told myself I wouldn’t be able to live with that,” Gutierrez said.