Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

Cadets rescue 3 from likely drowning in Panama

By Butch Wehry

Academy Spirit staff

Four Academy cadets saved three Panamanians from potentially drowning June 7, while on a foreign immersion trip to Central America.

They were returning from a trip to the Panama’s inland mountain area of Boquete  when Academy Department of Foreign Languages Spanish instructor Victor Nell decided to take a break and let the 13 cadets go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean along Panama’s Santa Clara Beach.

He was swimming with Cadet 3rd Class Ben Garoutte when he noticed two young ladies swimming about 30 meters away.

“It was obvious they were in big trouble and were calling for help,” Nell said.  “I swam out to them and Cadet Garoutte followed me.  We were basically in a rip tide type of current and being pulled out away from the beach.”

According to Nell, an assistant professor, he was trying to keep one of them afloat and struggling to keep her calm. Cadet Garoutte helped with the other young lady. Cadet 3rd Class Bryan Koenig helped the professor keep her afloat and take her to shore.

Nell said he turned around and noticed a Panamanian man struggling and screaming, “Auxilio me ahogo”, Spanish for “help I am drowning!”

“I was about 15 meters from him at this time and pretty tired and luckily Cadets 3rd Class Derrick Rowe and Allan Foote arrived just in time to help him and pull him to shore,” he said.  “The cadets were phenomenal and very courageous and the likelihood is that the three Panamanians would probably have drowned,” said Nell. “The four cadets had the courage to get in and help. I was extremely impressed with their swimming skills and their courage to come to the aid of people they did not even know.

The travelers arrived in Panama May 20 and are scheduled to return to the Academy today.

To Top