Port Angeles woman saves girl caught in undertow at Shi Shi Beach
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Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News
Allison McGee, left, and Rob Ollikainen after helping save a teenager who was caught in an undertow at Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A former lifeguard and Peninsula Daily News news staff member rescued a teenage girl who was caught in frigid undertow at Shi Shi Beach.

Allison McGee, 32, of Port Angeles was sitting on the upland portion of the beach with other PDN staff members and friends at the popular coastal destination at about 2:15 p.m. last Sunday when she realized the girl was in trouble.

The girl, Summer Hamman, 16, of Neah Bay, was screaming for help, immobilized and treading water in a deep undertow 25 to 50 yards from shore.

McGee sprinted to the water and swam out to the girl.

“I didn't even think about it,” said McGee, a Memphis, Tenn., native and former competitive swimmer.

“I knew if she had gotten any farther, maybe 25 or 50 more yards, it would have been way more difficult than it was.

“Before I got too close to her, I said, 'OK, you're not going to grab onto me and bring both of us down, right?' and she nodded and said, 'Yes.'

“If she had panicked, I would have gone around her, then wrapped my arms around her under her armpits.”

Within about 15 minutes, McGee helped the girl swim diagonally toward the shore.

Reporter helps

Rob Ollikainen, 37, a Port Angeles resident and also a PDN staff member, headed out to meet the two.

He swam with a piece of driftwood to help the girl as McGee, the teenager and Ollikainen linked hands and slowly made it to shore.

“The driftwood provided an extra measure of safety,” Ollikainen said.

“I was out of breath but proud of Allison and happy the girl was safe.”

All three made it back without injury, other than a slight case of hypothermia for the teen afterward, said the girl's uncle, Stanley Hamman.

Hamman, who was at the beach with his niece and had alerted bystanders to her plight, said she did not intentionally swim into deep water.

She was knocked down by waves crashing on the shore “and went to stand up, and she couldn't feel the bottom,” recalled Hamman, a Coast Guard officer stationed at Neah Bay.

His niece was in mortal danger, he said, and he “thanked the good Lord that [her rescuers] were there.”

Called off alert

Petty Officer Amanda Norcross, a 13th Coast Guard District spokeswoman, said Coast Guard personnel were readying a rescue vessel at Coast Guard Station Neah Bay when they received word that the girl had been rescued and called off the alert.

McGee said she wasn't a hero; she just had the training to save the girl.

“If you have the skills to be able to do it, do it,” she said.

“If not, don't, and call 9-1-1.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb, who also was with the group at Shi Shi Beach and observed the rescue, can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 13. 2015 4:53PM
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