The Kurth family of Vinton — Shawna, Kinzley and Kenna — and Kinzley’s boyfriend Javan Andrews were enjoying their summer trip to Cancun like most would imagine: with a swim in the ocean. Kinzley had called to her mother and sister to join her and Javan out further. The local lifeguards were out for the evening and everything seemed fine to the family.
Then, Javan and Kinzley noticed the situation swiftly begin to change. Before they could react, the four were caught in a riptide and unable to find footing with the ground beneath them.
“We were getting pulled farther and farther out,” Kinzley said. “I saw my mom couldn’t touch the bottom. She’s not a great swimmer. I knew things were bad for all four of us.”
But Javan and Kinzley stayed calm and let their lifeguard training take over. Javan headed over to Kenna to help out and Kinzley did everything possible to keep her mother’s head up.
“I remember watching us getting away from the shore,” Shawna said. “Panic started setting in for me. I told everyone to get to shore. I watched Kinzley swimming towards me and I screamed for her not to come and get me.”
Kinzley helped support her mother over her shoulder and carefully bring her close enough to shore to touch the bottom with her feet. Javan followed behind with Kenna as all four collapsed on the beach exhausted.
“Kenna and mom didn’t think they’d make it,” Kinzley said. “If it weren’t for Javan and I knowing what to do, I don’t think we would have gotten very far.”
Kinzley has been a lifeguard at the Vinton Municipal Pool for several years. When Vinton Parks and Rec Director Matt Boggess saw a post by Shawna on social media about the experience, he nominated Kinzley for the National Red Cross Lifesaving Award.
“I never would have thought there was an award for this,” Kinzley said. “I honestly think everyone should know a thing or two about lifeguarding. This was instinct and I could wait while I watched my family in danger.”
Shawna was told by Kinzley about the award and was also surprised about the existence of such an award.
“I’d been hesitant about sharing this experience on Facebook,” Shawna said. “I just felt God wanted me to share the story. People are going to the ocean all the time. You don’t realize just how quick the waves can carry you away. This wasn’t a big deal to Kinzley because she knew what to do. She obviously didn’t do this for an award, but this is cool to see her recognized.”