BAY VILLAGE -- Two investigations are underway into the near drowning Monday of three people at Huntington Beach. One of the three people, a teacher, remains in critical condition.
Laura Recco, 46, of Seven Hills was pulled into the lake when she tried to rescue a child who had been taken out by a rip current. According to her husband Frank Recco, her heart stopped for up to 20 minutes while she was in the water.
The child, Diamond Harris, 9, was listed in good condition, and a third victim, lifeguard Christian Pesarchick, 19, was also on the way to full recovery.
Recco was one of four teachers who came with Harris and four other students on the annual day at the beach outing of the Positive Education Program which serves children who have special learning needs.
Harris was suddenly pulled into the lake by a powerful rip current about 10:30 a.m., half an hour before the beach officially opened. Recco, who tried to go after her was also dragged by the current. Lifeguard Pesarchick, who was just getting ready to go on duty, tried to rescue both and was overcome by the rip currents.
He and the others were eventually rescued by half a dozen other lifeguards nearby, and by a passerby, Clint Kranes of Elyria. Kranes is a Navy veteran who credited his military training with allowing him to endure the relentless currents.
Why some children and adults ventured into the water before the beach was officially opened and before lifeguards were on duty, and with dangerous conditions on the lake is being investigated by both Metroparks Rangers and by the Positive Education Program.
"Our Metroparks Rangers are certified peace officers in the state of Ohio," said Jane Christyson, spokesperson for the Cleveland Metroparks.
"We have a skilled staff of detectives who took statements from everyone who witnessed the incident at Huntington Beach. They will compare the statements, investigate, and then issue a report from that."
The Positive Education Program said in a statement that the incident "prompts the need to do a thorough internal investigation of how the decision was made to proceed with this year's annual beach visit."
"Many questions will be asked of our staff, and will need to be answered," the statement continued. PEP also said that all of its energy at present is devoted to seeing to Recco's recovery, and that of Diamond Harris.
"What possessed them to go on to that beach," said a beach-goer Tuesday at Huntington, who witnessed the Monday incident. "With the rip tides like that, I wouldn't even go down there."
The beach was closed for a time Tuesday because of similar wind, wave, and current conditions. It had reopened by afternoon.
Recco's husband Frank told WKYC he is sure his wife and the other adults who went on the PEP beach outing Monday took precautions when they saw the rough waters and high waves.
"Oh, she did, yes" Recco said Monday evening. "There was a group of people there, adults, and I'm sure they did. That's why they kept them (the children) up close, you know, in the shallow part of the water."
Recco was not sure if the group knew the beach was not officially open and that lifeguards were not yet officially on duty, although several were preparing to take their places.
"I think that's the tough part," Recco reflected. "I don't know if they were looking around for lifeguards at the time."
Recco was certain that his wife, who was PEP's teacher-counselor of the year in 2006, risked her life to save Diamond Harris. "I know how Laura is. She always puts the kids first and herself second. So it doesn't surpirse me that she put herself in harm's way to do that."