We have a lot of unsung heroes in our little community. People who find themselves in situations during the normal course of their existence and really step up to the plate and help out. Most of those stories go untold, but occasionally they are brought to our attention so we can shine a little light on someone who really defines what’s so special about the spirit that is woven through the fabric our island.
Such is the case with Todd Sears, a retired police officer who serves as part of our beach patrol and who found himself in a rather extraordinary situation during the course of an otherwise ordinary day last week.
“He fought and beat cancer and he’s a brave man – these terms describe Beach and Street Enforcement staffer Todd Sears,” said Town Administrative Specialist Chelsea O’Riley.
“On February 4th, Todd was patrolling on Fort Myers Beach. While riding the beach, he was stopped by a couple that pointed out a man and dog struggling to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Quick to respond and without hesitation, Todd jumped (fully clothed) into the water to swim after them. The elderly gentleman was so far out that he was swimming to the buoy for some relief. As Todd was swimming out, the dog, a large chocolate lab, got to him first and lay on his shoulders. When Todd reached the gentleman, he advised him to lie on his back so he could pull him back to shore while the dog stood on Todd’s back. Todd brought them to a sandbar that was approximately 30 feet away. Once back on shore, the gentleman advised Todd that he was caught in a rip current and thanked him for his assistance.”
To Sears, a leukemia survivor, it was all in a day’s work.
“I’m originally from Omaha, Nebraska, where I was a police officer,” he told us. “About 12 years ago, our son played in a baseball game here and that’s how we ‘discovered’ Fort Myers Beach. My wife and I agreed that when we retired, this is where we wanted to live.”
Nearly four years ago, they did just that and Todd took a part-time job with Beach Patrol.
“We patrol the beach all day, assisting people when they need help and if we see wildlife that’s been injured we capture them and take them to CROW,” he told us. “Last Thursday I was out on patrol headed south near the Connecticut Street access when an elderly couple stopped me and pointed to the water.”
There, about 150 feet from shore, Sears could see a man swimming freestyle but actually moving backwards.
“I could tell he was caught in a rip current so I yelled at him to swim perpendicular to the current but he couldn’t hear me,” Todd said. “He wasn’t drowning or anything close to it, but I could tell he needed assistance so I swam out to him and laid down just outside the current so he could reach me. His dog swam right to me and jumped on my shoulders and I helped both of them to the sand bar where they were able to walk to shore safely.”
Todd says he didn’t do anything differently than what anyone else on Beach Patrol would have done.
“That’s why we’re out there,” he said simply, shrugging off the attention. “We all love this community, and we all love to help people.”
Keri Hendry Weeg