Family raises nearly $50,000 for good Samaritan who saved daughter from rip tide
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) - A Texas family is hoping to repay a good Samaritan who jumped into action to save a 10-year-old girl from a rip tide that almost turned their summer vacation into a tragedy.
Haylee Whiting, 10, and her family splashed along the shore in August, as they enjoyed the last day of their vacation in Monterey, California. But when the tides took a turn, the family’s summer break almost ended in tragedy.
Haylee was playing in the waves when her mom, Samantha Whiting, asked her to come closer to shore, but the girl got caught in a rip tide that quickly pulled her deeper out to sea.
“I was thinking, ‘This is not happening right now. There’s no way I’m actually getting pulled out.’ I was really terrified,” Haylee said. “It happened in seconds.”
Whiting tried swimming out to save her daughter.
“I will never forget her face when she said, 'Mom, help me,” she said.
Thankfully, Kevin Cozzi and his fiancée heard the family screaming. The good Samaritan quickly jumped into action.
“I’ve been swimming since I was 3 years old competitively, so I felt like I could get to them. So, I ran out there, and as soon as I got to the mom, I just told her to give me the daughter because I could see she was struggling,” Cozzi said.
After reaching Haylee and her mother, he brought the 10-year-old closer to shore until a lifeguard jumped in.
“He saved us. If it wasn’t for him coming to grab her off of me, there’s no way we both would’ve made it,” Whiting said.
Whiting only knew Cozzi’s first name at the time, but she never stopped looking for the heroic bystander.
Months later, in October, she posted about the rescue in a Facebook group called Merced Neighborhood Watch, and within hours, the Whitings had reconnected with their hero.
“Thank you so much. You were really brave to come out there – probably one of the biggest heroes I’ve ever met,” Haylee said.
The grateful family is now raising money through GoFundMe to give Cozzi and his fiancée their dream wedding and honeymoon after their wedding had to be canceled due to COVID-19. They have raised nearly $50,000.
“That girl being safe was enough for me, honestly,” Cozzi said.
The Whitings plan to thank Cozzi again in person as they attend his wedding next fall.
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