CUMBERLAND — An 11-year-old youth is recovering after he was rescued from the water at a Rocky Gap State Park beach early Sunday afternoon by a Cumberland man who had arrived there with his wife just 20 minutes earlier.
The youth was taken by ambulance to UPMC Western Maryland as a precaution following the 12:40 p.m. incident, said Lauren Moses, a Maryland Natural Resources Police spokesperson.
“The child was deemed OK at the scene, but he was then taken to a medical center as a precaution,” she said.
Van Gaus and his wife Cindy were sitting in beach chairs when he decided to go into the water.
“The water was really cold and I was up to about my knees when I heard a woman yelling for help,” said Gaus, who briefly observed the young victim about 50 feet away.
“I saw the kid’s head peek out of the water and he went back down. I was able to get a hold of him and get behind him. I was afraid of losing him in the dark water.
“I kept telling him to hold on to me. He wasn’t responding but I could feel him holding on,” said Gaus, who was then able to assist the victim onto a flotation device placed in the water by Rocky Gap first-responders.
Moses also credited Gaus with performing rescue efforts that removed water from the child’s stomach.
Gaus, who is a certified diver, said the incident “happened so fast” as he began getting into the water at his leisure. The water was at least six feet deep at the location of the emergency, he said.
“When it happened, I just reacted. I have two children of my own. I’m just glad to hear that the kid is OK,” said Gaus, a 34-year employee of the United Parcel Service whose responsibilities include assisting in the safety department.