Winston-Salem man talks about his role in saving 2 young girls from the mighty rip current at Kure Beach
WINSTON-SALEM, NC (WGHP) – April 18, 2021, is a date Antonio Burns will never forget. The native of Winston-Salem made his first trip to Kure Beach with his friend and at first it was perfect.
“It was quiet, it was peaceful, a beautiful beach,” Burns said. “We weren’t there for an hour – we weren’t even there for 40 minutes – before the situation.
This “situation” changed everything. Burns first remembers the commotion from the water.
“The screams just didn’t sound pleasant,” Burns said. “The screams didn’t sound like playful howls at all. It was more the case: “I need help”. “
It was then that Burns noticed two young girls in the water and they were struggling.
“I was not an experienced swimmer, I forgot everything. I didn’t know about a current tear or anything, ”Burns said. “It was like ‘you can do it, you can do it, you got it, you can save these girls.’ ‘
As Burns walked towards the girls in the water, he briefly encountered a woman he would later learn to be Jessica Embry – a 40-year-old teacher from the Wilmington area.
“She said ‘you have this girl, I’m going to get this girl,’ and those are the only words we ever said to each other.
Once they reached the girls in the water, Burns understood why they were in so much trouble: They were caught in a mighty tearing current.
“Now instead of just fighting the waves, now it’s like an extra pull on me,” Burns said.
Burns remembers pushing one of the girls toward the shore, then wave after wave crashing into him. At that moment he thought of his father who had drowned 10 years earlier.
“I say help me to a higher power. And I feel like he’s grabbed the energy and I feel like that’s what the firefighters came in to save me from the water. And after that last moment, everything went black, ”he said.
Rescuers brought Burns to shore and he was taken to a local hospital for treatment. He spent two days in a coma on a ventilator. After waking up, he learned bittersweet news from the Kure Beach police that the girls had survived, but not Jessica Embry.
“I had never been in the army. I have family that was in the military and they came back physically well, but mentally they didn’t come back very well. Burns said. “I never really understood or knew how they felt, but after this situation I can certainly see and experience what it feels like to lose a comrade in the field.”
Burns still grapples with the emotional toll of that day and the thousands of dollars in hospital bills. But he said he would do it again knowing the girls are okay.
“I would like someone to do the same for me,” he said.
The Kure Beach Police Department released a statement saying, “We salute the heroic efforts and sacrifices made by Jessica Embry, bystanders and rescuers. Jessica Embry, along with everyone else involved, is credited with saving children’s lives.
Burns said he would love to meet the girls he helped save if they were comfortable with it. But if not, you just have to know that they are doing well.
Burns does not have health insurance and has opened a gofundme account to help cover his hospital bills. You can find it here.
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