Hundreds of volunteers work furiously to save 22 beached pilot whales at Fort Pierce's Avalon Beach

Five of the 22 whales survived

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Back and forth. Back and forth.

Volunteers carried water in buckets back and forth from the ocean to the whales on shore.

It seemed like an endless march, as the helpers desperately tried to save the beached whales at Avalon Beach in Fort Pierce today.

"Couldn't get enough water," said volunteer Missy Tougas.

Hundreds of volunteers like her came out to haul whales and pour water over the creatures, in the hopes that the 22 stranded pilot whales would live.

"It's terrible. It's very, very frustrating and sad," said Brett Tougas, Missy's husband and also a volunteer.

Missy is passionate about marine mammals and has rescued beached Pilot whales before in the Keys.

The couple got to work on the whales when they were found trapped along the beach about 9:30 Saturday morning.

"They were getting crushed, they kept getting turned sideways, their blowholes were covered with water, and they were literally drowning because whales are mammals and they need oxygen to survive," said Brett.

Beached mammal experts took five of the smallest whales for treatment at Harbor Branch Marine Mammal Research and Conservation.

Those whales were said to be the most likely to recover.

Most of the volunteers were inexperienced. People who'd never even seen a whale in the wild helped get the mammals to safety.

Brett says all the whales were treated with a mix of Valium, selenium and Vitamin E to sedate them.

Some of the 17 whales that died passed away on their own. Others were humanely euthanized by injection, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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