A 39-year-old Brunswick man drowned Sunday evening in the ocean off of Massengale Park Beach on St. Simons Island while trying to rescue a woman, who died later that night at the hospital, Glynn County Police said.
The body of Gregory Grant was found about 7:30 a.m. Monday morning offshore from Massengale Park Beach, said Brian Scott, the county Police Department's Chief of Staff. Grant was among several people who went to the aid of Aleisha Rankin, 34, and a toddler at around 6 p.m. Sunday after the she and the child were seen struggling in the water.
Rankin and the child were brought to shore, where two off-duty nurses performed CPR on her, police said. County paramedics rushed Rankin in critical condition to Southeast Georgia Health System's Brunswick hospital, where the Jesup woman later died, police said. The toddler is in good condition.
Grant's body was spotted by members of his family, who were onshore at Massengale during an intensive search involving the state Department of Natural Resources, the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency's Search and Recovery Team, the U.S. Coast Guard, county police and county fire department crews.
Several people assisted in bringing the Rankin and the child back to shore following the 6 p.m. incident Sunday, Scott said. While trying to help the two, Grant went under water and did not resurface, Scott said.
A witness who identified herself as Wendy Goldin of St. Simons Island was on the beach when the rescue happened.
Goldin said she saw at least one man run into the water to help rescue Rankin.
“We saw a man running out — he had a big cross tattoo on his back, and he (later) said his name was Heath,” Goldin told The News on scene. “They pulled her out, and someone started CPR.”
Police arrived to keep the crowd back while CPR was being performed. “They started CPR on her on the beach, then the cops arrived,” Goldin said. “There was a large swarm of people around her, and the one cop that got here first was trying to get them away.”
The search for the Grant Sunday night in the waters offshore from Massengale Park included boats, helicopters and drones.
A man who identified himself as Travis Williams, 31, of Waycross, was on the beach and heard the commotion. He said he ran into the water, which was approaching high tide, to help with the rescue.
“All I heard was there was a baby in the water,” he said, having been confused during all the panicked fray to rescue the woman. He did aid in pulling the woman from the water, he said, and also confirmed CPR was given to the woman on the beach.
“There were two nurses pumping on her chest,” he said. “She wasn’t conscious, but she was breathing sporadically, she was coughing up water.”
Goldin and another witness also said the two women had identified themselves as nurses.
Williams said he saw Grant in the water, but was unable to rescue him.
“The undercurrent, it was so strong. We couldn’t grab him,” Williams told The News on scene.
A police officer on scene who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the record said the crowd around the woman was so thick that authorities had difficulty reaching her.
“People thought it was a fight at first,” the officer said.
About an hour and a half after the initial 911 call, a large crowd still congregated on the beach as they watched helicopters, boats and other watercraft search for the missing man.
Agencies taking part in the search for the man included county police and fire department rescue workers, state Department of Natural Resources officers, U.S. Coast Guardsmen and the county Emergency Management Agency’s Search and Recovery Team. Sea Tow Brunswick, a private marine assistance provider, also took part in the rescue effort.
By about 9 p.m. Sunday, police radio traffic indicated the search for the man had been suspended. The search resumed Monday at dawn.
A witness who identified herself as Anne Marie Grant, of Hinesville, said she was visiting St. Simons Island for the day with her family when the situation happened.
“People were screaming,” she told The News on scene. “It was chaotic.”