Teen Risks Life To Save Drowning Boy By Jumping Off Pier, Suffers Major Injuries In Fall

April 16, 2019

19-year-old Hanna Pignato was working the Spring Break crowd at Joe’s Crab Shack in Daytona Beach, Florida when she heard something that made her hair stand on end. It was the unmistakable cry of a child in peril. And she couldn’t help but take action.

From her station on the outdoor deck of the popular restaurant, she looked down to see and hear a most frightening spectacle.

The Daytona News-Journal reports, “A mother on the beach screaming. A little boy bobbing in and out of rough waves, possibly drowning.”

It didn’t take long for Pigmato, who has a little sister of her own, to decide she had to do something. And that something ended up putting her own life in jeopardy. But she didn’t care.

“I was just thinking that could be my little sister I would hope someone would save,” Pignato said with a deep sigh, lying in her hospital bed Sunday afternoon. “So I jumped.”

A self-proclaimed strong swimmer and surfer, Pignato believed she would be the right hero for the situation. Little did she now that when she landed, she would sustain injuries of her own, and be unable to help the child who appeared to be caught in a rip current.

The would-be heroine hit a sand bar in the shallow ocean and sustained a broken foot and a sprained back. Her injuries were so severe that Pignato ended up needing rescuing herself.

Rescue personnel arrived and helped both victims to shore. Both were taken to area hospitals, Pignato far worse off than the little boy.

Hanna’s mother, Heather Pignato issued an update on her daughter’s condition after her failed-rescue attempt.

She had surgery on her foot this morning,” she said Sunday. “I’m just glad she won’t need surgery on her back.”

Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue officers told the News-Journal that she jumped into the water to save the child shortly before 8 p.m., Ocean Rescue Capt. Tammy Malphurs said.

“An 8-year-old boy was caught in a rip north of the pier,” Malphurs said.

“We also got a report of a woman, who appeared to be a Joe’s Crab Shack employee, lying on the beach by the pier,” she said. “She advised us she jumped in to help save the boy.”

And, although the intention of Ms. Pignato was noble, it just highlights the dangers of a well-meaning Good Samaritan trying to intervene in a situation that is best left up to the professionals.

Rescue agencies and lifeguards everywhere share the same philosophy when it comes to laypeople trying to go beyond their capabilities in similar situations.

Malphurs said, “She said the agency discourages the public from attempting to rescue people and advised that it’s better to call 9-1-1.

“We believe her heart is in the right place but we do not encourage people to try and rescue people drowning,” Malphurs said.

Often it ends up with TWO people needing rescue. And that places undue stress on lifeguards and other rescue personnel.

“19-year-old Hanna Pignato was on the Daytona Beach Pier when she saw a young boy possibly drowning. Without a moment's though, she jumped off into the waves to save him.”

As for Hanna, she had this to say about her misguided efforts:

“I didn’t want the baby to die. He wasn’t a baby, he was 7 years old, 8 years old, but still I mean that’s a human life you just can’t look at that and walk away.”

You have to honor that sentiment. We’re just glad both Hanna and the little boy are going to be fine.

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