Witnesses say tragedy was averted on Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island yesterday afternoon when a 10-year-old girl pulled an unconscious 4-year-old boy out of the surf.

“At first I thought the kids were playing tricks on me to give me a heart attack,” said Rowley resident Sieglinde Aigner-Crooks, mother of Collete Crooks, 10. “That was my first, 3-second reaction, then I realized no, they are not playing. This is serious. I dropped my water bottle and let out a bone-chilling cry and half the beach came running.”

Aigner-Crooks, Collette and Collette’s friend, Maddie, headed to the beach around 1 p.m. yesterday where they met two boys, the youngest of whom was a 4-year-old named Cash. Cash was playing in the water with his fifth-grade cousin Jack and told Aigner-Crooks that they were from Merrimac. Cash’s father and grandfather were also on the beach and stopped by to chat with Aigner-Crooks and the girls for a while.

For the next couple of hours the day played out nicely for all involved, with the boys occasionally teasing the girls and tricking them into thinking they were in trouble. But then, said Aigner-Crooks, a serious situation arose when Cash really needed help.

“We were in the water where we couldn’t stand and I saw a little head farther away and I thought it was Jack sneaking up on us,” Collette said. “So I went underwater to try to scare him and when I came up, I saw it was Cash and I knew something was wrong right away.”

Aigner-Crooks was returning from her walk just then to find her daughter standing in waist-deep water with the little boy in her arms.

“She said that she thought she saw a ball floating in the water,” Aigner-Crooks said. “She then realized that this thing is not a ball, it is not Jack, it is the little guy, Cash.”

Maddie rushed into the water next as about 30 people came to Collette’s aid, with most dialing 911, and one bystander got Cash on his side, Aigner-Crooks said.

“He was not conscious,” Aigner-Crooks said. “You could see that he was breathing and after a few minutes you could see him taking some deep breaths. A little water came out of his mouth and he was completely covered in white foam.

“Then he slowly came to and was very lethargic, blue in his face and the grandfather was holding him. Then a younger man carried him up to the beach and I stayed behind with the girls because they were so shocked.”

An ambulance dispatched from Newbury arrived soon after. The little boy was removed from the island and taken to the hospital, according to the Newbury police log. A hospital spokeswoman was not available for comment.

Sandy Point State Reservation is located at the southernmost tip of Plum Island, one of the most remote stretches of beach in the region.

The popular beach usually isn’t staffed by state employees, and visitors must travel 6 miles through the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to get to it. Though the state beach is physically located in Ipswich, the Ipswich Police Department said Newbury was dispatched to the incident because it is much closer.

A student at the Pine Grove Elementary School in Rowley, Collette said that the incident was scary while it was happening but she is glad things turned out for the best.

“I am very, very proud,” Aigner-Crooks said. “It is unbelievable. She saved a little 4-year-old boy.”


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