FAU student saves drowning man at South Beach Park

Junior biology major Nicole Farley was able to pull the man back to shore, but believes that Boca Raton Ocean Rescue did not do enough to ensure safety at the beach.


Justine Kantor, News Editor

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on March 22 at 5:10 p.m. to more accurately report the incident.

What was supposed to be a relaxing day at the beach turned into a rescue mission when junior biology major Nicole Farley saved one man from drowning.

Farley, who works as a lifeguard at a pool, was with two friends when she spotted a man in distress on March 19 at South Beach Park in Boca Raton. She estimated his age to be between sixty and seventy years old. 

According to Farley and her friends, Boca Raton Ocean Rescue lifeguards were unavailable to help the man while the incident unfolded.

“I think it was an act of God – It was insane,” said Farley. “We were delayed and then as soon as we went into the water [the incident] happened.”

Photo courtesy of Nicole Farley

Farley would not reveal information about the man or his medical condition, citing respect for his privacy. 

Farley and her friends had planned to arrive earlier but got to the beach around 1:30 p.m. A few minutes later, she recalled witnessing an older man who seemed to be struggling to stay afloat.

At first, Farley was unsure of whether or not the man was in distress. She decided to take action a minute later when she heard a woman screaming for help.

“I heard her say to these two other college students next to me – they were two guys, ‘Oh my gosh can you please help my papi, please help him’… and she was pointing to the man who I saw earlier,” said Farley. 

She swam to the man and began to pull him to shore when two other men swam out to assess the situation. After a minute of unsuccessfully attempting to swim back to shore, Farley said the men left without helping her.

After a few minutes of struggling, Farley was able to get the man back to shore. Once he was almost ashore, the lifeguards began to help.

“His lips were blue, he was cold,” said Farley.

Junior biology major Nakayla Washington, who was with Farley at the beach, gained the attention of the Boca Raton Ocean Rescue lifeguards after Farley was in the water attempting to help the man. 

“The whole thing just happened so fast,” said Washington.

Farley feels that the lifeguards were not effectively making sure beachgoers were safe at the time of the incident. 

“They were not paying attention at all. Nothing,” she said. The UP reached out to Boca Raton Ocean Rescue for comment but did not receive a response by publication time.

Beach warning flags. Courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

According to Farley, the lifeguards did not take safety precautions until after the incident, deciding to put up a red flag warning beachgoers of dangerous conditions later.

The city of Boca Raton uses a red warning flag to notify beachgoers of “high surf and/or strong currents,” however, signs posted at the beach explaining the flags note that an “absence of flags does not assure safe waters.”

Farley also noted that the presence of the lifeguards was more apparent after the situation.

“It was definitely not enough,” she said.

Senior biology major Lindsey Rhoden, who was with Farley and Washington, expressed her admiration for her friend.

“She didn’t stop for one second to contemplate whether or not to save him, she just did it,” said Rhoden.

Justine Kantor is the News Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @KantorJustine