Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Rescue Crews Train With Coast Guard

Tuesday was an ideal day to be a swimmer in distress in Surfside Beach.

Throughout the day, about 135 rescue workers, law enforcement personnel and firefighters from more than 15 departments took over the beach and the water with Jet Skis, boats, beach trucks and even a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.

It was a training operation designed to prepare Grand Strand agencies for the worst that can happen in the water.

Crews practiced taking severely injured people out of the water, transferring them from boat to boat and even from the water to a flying helicopter.

"That copter is liable to work with any of these agencies at any time," Coast Guard Petty Officer Beau Woods said of the helicopter that landed Tuesday at Martin Park in Surfside Beach.

In emergency situations, the Coast Guard works with local rescue agencies. Tuesday's training was designed to make real rescues go smoother.

"My job is to teach my unit personnel and my local personnel to get them on the same page," Woods said.

Midway Fire Department Battalion Chief Carr Gilmore said the training was more than just a good time on the water.

"We got to meet the other crews and see how they do things," he said.

Gilmore hopes that when a serious emergency comes up, the training crews had Tuesday will help them do a better job.

"We're practicing everybody working as a team. ... It's a good way for us to meet each other," he said.

The high tide Tuesday didn't leave much room on the beach - a tent was just feet from the waves, and children built sand castles near the boat trailers connected to trucks bearing the seals of various Grand Strand police and fire departments.

Dorothy Doe of Garden City Beach brought a beach chair, and for an hour and a half, she and her daughter watched the training.

"We wanted mainly to see the helicopter because my brother was a Coast Guard helicopter pilot," she said.

While local agencies learned how to work with the Coast Guard in a rescue, Surfside Beach Rescue Squad Chief Mark Priganc, whose squad organized the event, said he learned something else.

"We learned that putting something like this together is not easy," Priganc said.