RICHMOND, R.I. (NewsNation Now) — In a matter of minutes, one Rhode Island woman saved the lives of an entire family who found themselves in a terrifying situation in May.
Three children, their parents and grandfather were on a boat May 22 when it flipped, Fran Ethier of the Department of Environmental Management said.
All of the children were wearing life jackets, and Ethier said the adults told the 7-year-old to swim to shore and get help.
Kate Lemery, a Jamestown nurse, was out in her yard when she heard the cries for help and immediately jumped into her kayak without a second thought.
“I had the man by his T-shirt and the girl by her shorts, so we were just drifting along with the waves knowing somebody was going to be coming along,” she recalled.
Unfortunately, Lemery’s kayak ended up flipping too, due to the wake created by the family’s fishing boat, sending her into the 56-degree water with them.
“This amazing curl of the water and the bubbles and the clarity,” she said. “I’d never been in a situation where I could’ve died at that point and it was a decision. It really was a decision.”
Lemery, the father and the daughter managed to hang on until rescuers arrived a short time later.
Ethier said the father was rushed to the hospital and was placed on a ventilator, but was released the next day. No one else was injured.
Lemery received several awards Thursday morning for her heroic actions. She received her awards at the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs’ monthly meeting.
“That day was truly a miracle and you were the conduit to that miracle. You really were,” Ethier said of Lemery’s “fearless” efforts.
Lemery told NewsNation affiliate WPRI she hasn’t seen the family since that day, but she still has the little girl’s shirt in her house and she’d love to reunite with them some day.
NewsNation affiliate WPRI contributed to this report.