NASH COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- After all the drownings along the North Carolina coast already this season, a Nash County deputy was paying close attention while at the beach with his family this weekend.
It's a good thing. He ended up saving a young girl who was caught in a rip current.
RELATED: Rip currents: Safety tips and what to know
"I feel like God placed me there for a reason. I didn't get up and leave. We didn't leave early like we had thought about doing," Captain Allen Wilson told ABC11.
Wilson says he mentioned to his son that there was an odd pattern in the surf, maybe a rip current.
Not long after he noticed a group of kids playing in the water.
"I told my wife, I said, 'If they, you know if they go out and get in trouble, you know I'm going to have to try to help them.'"
He says it was an offhand comment, one he didn't think he would really have to follow through on.
More on ABC11: 20 rip current rescues reported at Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach on Memorial Day
But he soon noticed a girl in the group riding a swim ring. He says the girl was about 10 or 11 years old and was drifting farther and farther away.
"And then as a wave came I don't know if she jumped off it or it knocked her off of it but either way she got separated and it was obvious that she couldn't get back to it. And one of the little boys, it looked like he might have been 12 or so, tried to go out to her. And he quickly turned around and came back. And I knew then that there was trouble," Wilson said.
The sheriff's captain said his first instinct was to just jump in the water and start swimming.
But he recalled how others have drowned by trying to save swimmers in distress.
So he grabbed his boogie board, a lifeguard ring someone brought to him, and the girl's swim ring which had washed up on shore.
"As I went out it quickly got over my head. And I was swimming trying to get to her I could feel the current pulling me out. And as I got closer to her I asked if she could swim to me and she said she couldn't and she said, 'I can't. I'm tired.' And so I swam out to her and I got her the life ring."
But there was no time to celebrate. Now they had to get back to shore.
"We would kick and try to go. It felt like we'd make a foot foward and then we would start being pulled back out. And I didn't think we were going to be able to get back in," he said.
Finally, they made it to the surf and the waves helped them the rest of the way.
"And by this time I was really, I was gassed I was tired. Had it not been for grabbing those flotation devices that I was able to use...that tube and the ones I took, honestly I would not have been able to make it back."
The girl was checked out by beach rescue but was fine.
"Her mom, of course, was crying and very thankful and continued to hug me. And I can understand why. She was completely panic stricken on the beach."
Back at work in Nash County this week he tried to reject the talk of heroism.
"It's not about me," he said adding, "I was just, I just happened to be there and thank God I had the opportunity to help her in her time of need."
Wilson does hope his story inspires others to be alert at the beach and make sure they have a floatation device handy in case someone needs help.
He says it's all about paying it forward.
"I would hope that if my son, my daughter, I was out there, somebody would do the same thing for us."
Nash County deputy saves young girl caught in rip current
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