Palm Beach Co. Fire Rescue: 14 people almost drowned

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - It was a baptism ceremony, almost gone wrong.

Jonathan Bonar pastors Christ Fellowship Church. Sunday, he baptized 95 people at Juno Beach. But, in the midst of celebration, it was a near-brush with tragedy.

"Children were playing nearby us, and got pulled out by the rip current," recalled Bonar. "A lot of our people swam out to help them, and get them back in."

John Lenartowicz, a Jupiter resident who was at the beach at the time, describes it like a chain-drowning, when he saw the six children pulled out to sea.

"There were people on top of each other," Lenartowicz recalled. "People bobbing in and out of the water."

Howard Wetterdr was in the middle of his baptism, when just feet away-- he saw the children get swept away from shore by what rescue crews describe as a strong rip current.  He grabbed one child, and started swimming against the current.

"I didn't realize how far we got pulled out," said Wetterdr. "Once I was able to stand, I just carried him out until he was able to stand and we got out."

Lifeguards said swimmers are at their own risk in the northern part of Juno Beach, since it is unguarded. The only area they said is protected, is within 100 yards of the pier. At 2:00 p.m., two adult swimmers went missing. Both were located, and one was sent to the hospital in critical condition.

Lenartowicz was a lifeguard when he was younger, so he jumped in and saved another one of the six children, along with Wetterdr. He said despite the danger to himself, he'd do it all over again.

"Just help someone, that's all it was," Lenartowicz said. "If it was my child or anybody else's, I'd expect the same from anybody else."

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