Teen saved from drowning in Ocean Shores


by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News


Posted on June 5, 2012 at 11:50 AM

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- A 13-year-old girl is home and healthy after nearly drowning in the ocean Sunday afternoon.  An Ocean shores police officer helped pull her to safety. 

Lizzie Dambacher walked into the water, hoping to wade in the waves near a jetty, but she accidentally walked out too far. 

"The next second, I couldn't touch the ground," Dambacher said.  "The waves were really big and crashing over me and it was hard to stay up above the water."

Her stepfather, John Villesvik, was walking in ankle-deep water when he noticed she was missing.

"All I saw was this big surf, big surf, big surf -- but no little girl," he said.  "I started praying.  That was the only thing I could do, just, 'God, I need a miracle now.'"

For at least 15 minutes, Dambacher fought against the riptide, trying to swim back to shore.  She was at least 150 feet away.

Ocean Shore police officer Chris Iversen, who also happens to be on the city's surf rescue team, saw that she was in distress and ran to rescue her. 

Dambacher was able to swim closer to shore, then Iversen, with help from a flotation device,  helped the exhausted teen the rest of the way, Villesvik said.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm saved,'" Dambacher said.

A quick trip to the hospital revealed Dambacher had no water in her lungs.  She was released after less than two hours and returned home to Federal Way Monday night. 

Through Facebook, she spent the night updating her friends on what happened.

She plans on writing a letter of appreciation to Officer Iversen and wants everyone to know the important lesson she has learned: "Don't go swimming that far out."

Iversen told her that, in her situation, swimming diagonally toward shore would have been easier.