ODA Middle School history teacher Mr. Connor Ventling was walking a group of campers off the beach this summer when he heard cries for help.
According to Joan Pompeo, her 19-year-old daughter and her friend from college had gone for a swim, but were being pulled offshore by dangerous rip currents. The two young women were unable to swim back to shore and were becoming exhausted.
Mr. Ventling, a summer counselor at Strong Wings Adventure Camp on Nantucket, and Andrew Trott-Kielawa, the camps’ aquatics director, are certified lifeguards who have worked for Strong Wings for many years. They responded without hesitation, grabbing their rescue tubes and heading into the water. Mr. Ventling and Mr. Trott-Kielawa were able to safely return the two young women to the beach, where they were met by relieved parents and cheering campers.
“All of a sudden these two jumped into action and swam out there like Navy SEALs,” Pompeo said. “The way they were swimming through the water, I knew it was going to be okay.”
Michelle Grodsky, who was also at the beach said she is certain the two counselors saved the girls’ lives. “It was incredibly rough and the (girls) were out a decent amount,” she said. “I’ve been going to the south shore beaches a long time and based on the conditions, things did not look good...They went into emergency mode and handled it like professionals.”
At the Lifesavers Recognition Day awards ceremony held earlier this month at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, Mr. Ventling was one of four people honored for “going above and beyond the call of duty.” The event was opened by Egan Maritime Executive Director, Pauline Proch, and the Honoree presentations were delivered by Jessica Guff, Trustee of Egan Maritime and the Chair of the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum. Mr. Ventling received a Citation from the State of Massachusetts presented by Thomas M. Dixon, Legislative Liaison for Nantucket, Office of Rep. Dylan Fernandes.