Child to adults at near-drowning scene: ‘Why are you all just standing around and watching?’

If not for a girl who chided adults on the Great Miami River’s shoreline Monday to jump into the water and save a drowning girl, she might have drowned, said one of the women who saved her.

Jennifer Nye, the first swimmer who saved an 11-year-old girl Monday afternoon, credits God and several people for the girl’s life.

Nye and others from Hamilton’s Dayton Lane neighborhood were gathered along the river Monday afternoon near the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers monument and the nearby historic log cabin to celebrate the late Bob Sherwin, a leading figure in the historic preservation of the neighborhood and cabin, when a young boy yelled, “Somebody’s in the water!”

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At the time, Nye said she was taking pictures during the tree dedication when someone screamed, “Call 911! Somebody’s drowning!”

Nye estimates the girl was about a third of the way out into the river. A man swam toward the girl, but realizing when he couldn’t make it to the girl, he turned back toward the shore.

A young girl yelled to him that he was so close and he should keep going. The girl yelled to the people on the shore, “Why are you all just standing around and watching?”

“I thought, ‘She’s right,’” Nye said. She threw off her purse but kept on her polarized prescription glasses, which she said helped her see the girl despite the glare of the sun off the river.

The water “was very comfortable, temperature-wise,” said Nye, 56, wife of former mayor Tom Nye. She was a swimmer until about junior high school and competed in the individual medley, which combines the four competitive strokes.

When Nye was about 3 to 4 feet from the girl, she went under as she had several times.

“She had gone down enough that I truly don’t think she would have come back up if I hadn’t grabbed her,” Nye said. She couldn’t see the girl in the muddy water, and just grabbed where she thought she might be. She grasped fabric, which turned out to be her swimsuit.

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Another woman, Holly Osborne, swam in and helped bring the girl out, each woman taking one side of her.

Nye credits “God, Bob Sherwin and Holly” for the save.

“If God wasn’t there, none of us would have been there,” she said. And if not for the memorial service for Sherwin, probably nobody would have been there to hear the screams for help.

“I think Bob is her guardian angel,” said Nye, who believes the girl had been in the water from about the RiversEdge amphitheater upriver at Hamilton’s Marcum Park.

“I did it because that girl on water’s edge said, ‘Why are you all just watching and looking?’” Nye said. “It just felt wrong to not do something. It was the girl that kind of shamed us all.”

The mother of three, who all were lifeguards at the Fairfield Aquatic Center, said her jeans made her feel like she was dragging 95 pounds with her. She lost her phone to the water.

Before Nye left the water, she looked up and saw the girl “was sitting up and talking to the police.” Nye took a while before she was able to leave the river herself, standing in knee-deep water and recovering from her effort.

Nye said she was thankful to have saved the girl’s life: “I just hope she’s able to live a good life and be happy,” she said.

The girl’s family could not be reached for comment.

Be careful near rivers

Here are things to know about the dangers of the Great Miami River and other waterways:

  • Never assume there is no danger with a river, because it may have depths that vary greatly. Also, there are currents you can't see.
  • Undertows can be very powerful.
  • "People really have no idea what moving water is capable of," Lt. Rick Bucheit of the Butler County Regional Water Rescue Team said.
  • Even when a river seems calm, it can be moving more quickly than it seems.
  • Underwater debris, such as tree limbs and rocks, can pose other dangers.
  • Fatigue, alcohol use or other factors may harm a boater's ability to rescue themselves.
  • Even when the hydraulic canal off the Great Miami River is "smooth as glass to look at," it can have a "horrific undercurrent," Maj. Mike Craft of the sheriff's regional water rescue team said in 2015.

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