GARY | Antonio Dominguez found himself in deep trouble in Lake Michigan on Saturday after jumping in to save his younger cousin.
"The waves had took her too far," he said. "And she started screaming for help. I was the one closest to her."
So as he grabbed the 11-year-old girl and handed her off to another family member who carried her to the shore, Dominguez was swept out farther into the lake.
Dominguez, 18, of Gary, was about 70 yards off the shore at the Wells Street Beach and began to struggle in the water when he couldn't touch bottom anymore.
He was in trouble.
“It was easier to give up than keep fighting,” he said.
But thanks to the help of an alert group of people, Dominguez was saved.
A man ran up the beach, found Irving Givens and asked him to help while two other men swam out toward Dominguez to keep him afloat.
Givens, a Canadian National Railway police officer, ran to the water and dove in.
“When I got out there, I saw he was in a lot of trouble,” Givens said. “He was tired. Those waves were a killer. So I swam back in and I got the life jacket and swam it back out to him.”
Dominguez said even with the life vest, the waves were too much for him to handle and he still didn't think he was going to live.
“They were telling me to kick my feet and I kept going underwater and throwing up,” he said. “And they just kept pulling me up.”
Givens said two other men were out near Dominguez and were trying to help him but he was worried for their safety, too.
By the time Dominguez was secured in the life vest, a lifeguard from a nearby Porter County beach had been driven over by an Ogden Dunes police officer and was able to help.
“It was unreal,” Dominguez said. “Unreal and scary.”
The lifeguard began to pull Dominguez in to shore and by that time, Gary police officer George Dickerson had been called out to help.
“It looked like everyone that was out there was struggling,” he said. “So I took off all my equipment and jumped in to help, too.”
As the lifeguard approached shore, Dickerson grabbed onto Dominguez and began pulling him in.
Although the water was shallow when he reached Dominguez, 3-foot-tall waves made it difficult for the lifeguard to manage the man alone, Dickerson said.
Givens was still swimming in with the other men who had swum out to help.
“I was more worried about ... two other guys out there,” Givens said. “I didn't know what their situation was and if they could swim or what. It could have actually really turned bad really fast. But those guys were able to make it and everyone got in safely.”
Dominguez said he doesn't know either of the two men who had tried to help him, but he would like to thank them as well as all the officials who jumped into the rough water.
"This is a swim-at-your-own-risk beach," Givens said. "You have to be careful."
Dominguez said the experience has left him with a valuable life lesson.
“Don't take life for granted,” he said. “I know I won't.”