RI Rescuer Drowns After Saving Boy
May. 17, 1998
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ People watching on shore thought that two screaming children were safe once two men swam out and put them on their backs.
Then Stephen Hayes, with his 11-year-old nephew on his back, went under in the choppy water off Warwick's Conimicut Point on Saturday.
``I can't go any farther,'' he said before his head disappeared.
His last words were heard by Linda Dale, a nurse who swam in and grabbed the boy.
``He took the kid off his back and pushed him toward me,'' Mrs. Dale said. ``I saw the man go down. I hollered to the rowboat, `He's going under, go get him!''
The rowboat did not reach Hayes in time. He died a hero, one week before his 32nd birthday.
Hayes and a friend, Randall Bates of Warwick, were fishing with Hayes' nephew, Andrew Andrews, and Bates' 8-year-old daughter, Amanda Bennett.
The children and Bates were on a sandbar when the tide came in Saturday afternoon, sweeping the young ones into Narragansett Bay. The water temperature was in the 50s.
``I heard the kids screaming, `Help,' '' Mrs. Dale said Sunday. Bates can't swim and stayed on the sandbar, while Hayes and Richard Boss of Attleboro, Mass., began swimming toward the children. Boss estimated the girl was swept about 90 feet from the sandbar.
Mrs. Dale dropped the kite she was flying and yelled to someone to call 911. Up to her waist in water, she saw that each man had a child on his back, and a rowboat was moving toward Boss.
Boss said he was going under and was trying to keep the girl's head up when the rowboat got close.
``I saw that guy coming out of the corner of my eye; I thought, ``Thank God,'' said Boss, 24. He put the girl in the boat and hung on to the back while Thomas Hazard of Warwick rowed.
Clinging to the boat, Boss, 24, felt relieved.
``I thought, `I saved the little girl. Good. It's over. I did what I could,''' Boss said.
Hazard's attention turned toward Hayes holding the boy.
``People were yelling, `He just went under,' so we went over in that direction,'' said Hazard, 32, who had been fishing offshore.
With one hand on the boat, Boss plucked Hayes from below the surface and held him up with one arm. Boss said he felt Hayes' body go limp.
``(Boss) did unreal holding on to the girl, and holding on to the guy, and holding on to the boat with one hand,'' said Hazard, who rowed all to shore.
It was unclear exactly how long Hayes had been in the water.
On shore, Mrs. Dale, 51, and another nurse administered CPR, but Hayes' heart would not start beating properly and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
``There's nothing we could have done better,'' Mrs. Dale said. ``The guy could not have rowed faster.''
Boss said he probably would be dead without Hazard coming by with the boat. Hazard said he does not feel like a hero.
``I think about the guy that isn't here anymore, who saved the little boy,'' Hazard said.
Hayes was married to Leslie, a nurse, and had a 1-year-old boy and 13-year-old stepdaughter. He worked winterizing homes, loved to fish, and had planted a vegetable garden in his back yard in West Warwick, said his neighbor, Mary Addison.
She recalled him as kind and easygoing.
``This is typical of him. He was a very giving person like that.''