A relaxing summer day on the beach turned into every mother's worst nightmare when a woman lost her three-year-old son at Newport Beach in California.
Jesse Martin, a 35-year-old from Arizona, was celebrating a family reunion on the beach when he overheard the frantic mother asking a lifeguard for help finding her son.
Parents asking lifeguards for help finding a missing child is not uncommon, especially at a busy beach during peak season. That same day, at least 10 other children were reported missing on the beach.
Martin rounded up a search party
Martin decided to help the mother search for her son, rallying in a few other cousins to help out.
"She was around like 50 people, and none of them got up to help her," said Stuart Frost, Martin's uncle. "It was really odd."
The mother told the family that she turned her back on her son for one moment to put sunscreen on her other child, and when she turned back, her boy was gone.
Martin noticed several children digging two large holes where the mother said her boy was last seen, and Martin had the horrifying thought that the young toddler may have been buried.
He asked all the kids to get out of the hole and started digging around in the sand.
"After a couple big scoops I felt him under there," Martin said.
It appeared that the little boy had been building a tunnel between the two large holes - each about three feet deep - and the sand collapsed above him.
But what he found made his heart drop
There was relief when the child was found, but soon fear sunk in as they started to pull out the toddler. "His face was real pale, real blue, real lifeless. It was definitely a sick feeling," Martin said.
Frost confirmed Martin's same thoughts, saying the boy was definitely dead, the poor mother beside herself.
Martin estimated that the little boy, named Brooks, was under the sand for about five minutes.
Despite appearances, the men did what they could to save the little boy
Frost, a dentist, immediately began administering CPR.
"We were cleaning out the sand out of his mouth, just making sure nothing would go down his lungs," Frost said. "When Brooks finally said the word, 'Mom,' that's when I knew we were OK. And it was pure relief."
Brooks was taken to the hospital and it was later reported that he was doing fine.
A couple days later, Brooks and his mother visited the resort where Martin and his family were staying, and they were able share a few hugs and laughs.
Martin was hailed a hero
But Martin doesn't see his actions as heroic.
"I'm not a hero," Martin said in a Faith It article. "I have two kids of my own, it scares me. I just like to help out and help anyone we can. I knew (the mom) was frantic and scared. Kids have gotten away from me, I know the feeling. I just tried to jump in and help."
He is, however, happy that things turned out for the best. He doesn't like thinking about what could have happened if they hadn't found Brooks in time.
Frost is also grateful he was CPR certified and able to help Brooks start breathing. Arizona regulation requires all dentists to be certified, but in 22 years of dentistry, he's never had to apply what he's learned.
The dangers of sand
Newport Beach Lifeguard Battalion Chief Brent Jacobsen said sand entrapment is no joke. Not many people are aware of it, but even a small amount of sand can lead to serious injuries and even death.
"It is very easy to become entrapped," he said. "Sand can weigh several hundred pounds and you don't even realize it."
He recommended that parents always watch their children when playing in sand. He also said holes shouldn't be deeper than one foot, and tunnels shouldn't be built or played in.
What a relief that someone on that beach was willing to respond to a panicked mother's pleas, and that one of the first responders was CPR certified. It's scary to think about what could have happened to little Brooks if Martin and Frost hadn't helped.