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Cadet on life support after trying to save swimmer, officials say

West Point cadets arrive at Stony Brook University

West Point cadets arrive at Stony Brook University Hospital on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, to visit cadet Thomas Surdyke, 18, who is on life support. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A West Point cadet is on life support after trying to save a swimmer from a rip current at a Southampton Village beach, officials said Wednesday.

Thomas Surdyke, 18, of Festus, Missouri, was pulled from the waters at Coopers Beach Friday after his rescue attempt, said Det. Sgt. Herman Lamison of the Southampton Village Police Department.

Janice Laiben Surdyke, who identified herself as the cadet’s mother, posted on her Facebook page late Tuesday that she was heartbroken.

“Our son and hero, Cadet Tom Surdyke, has passed. Continuing to serve others in death as in life, Tom chose to donate his organs, thus requiring him to be on a ventilator for the next 48 hours. However, his soul is with the Lord.”

His father, Tim Surdyke, reposted his wife’s message and added: “My son, my hero.”

The family later released a statement through Stony Brook University Hospital. “Today we are grieving as a family and ask that our privacy be respected during this difficult time. Our family is heartbroken over the loss of Tom.”

The family added that they were “grateful to all those emergency and medical professionals who tried to save Tom. . . . Tom chose to donate his organs, and with this selfless act he continues to serve others in death as he did in life.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point said Wednesday a cadet was on life support after an incident on a Long Island beach. He said the academy was not able to release any more information.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a report identified Surdyke as a first-year cadet. Festus is about 35 miles south of St. Louis.

Lamison said police and rescue personnel responded to a call for a swimmer in distress at 3:57 p.m. Friday.

“By the time our officers arrived the victim was out of the water and they had started lifesaving measures,” Lamison said.

Surdyke, who reportedly was on a brief vacation, was taken to Southampton Hospital and then transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he remained Wednesday.

Lamison and Village Mayor Mark Epley said they were told by witnesses that Surdyke, who would have turned 19 on July 4, went into the water to help another person who was struggling in a rip current.

“Two people were caught in a rip current, and one came out of the water and said my friend is having a hard time,” Epley said. Surdyke “went in to help.”

The swimmer who Surdyke tried to help made it out of the water safely, officials said.

A paramedic arrived at the crowded beach within five minutes of the 911 call to find a swimmer on the beach in cardiac arrest, said Richard Fowler, chief of the Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Bystanders were already performing CPR on the swimmer, he said, and the paramedic began resuscitation efforts as other emergency personnel rushed to the scene.

He remained unresponsive throughout the incident, Fowler said.

On Wednesday afternoon, 14 cadets dressed in fatigues and a chaplain arrived at Stony Brook University Hospital to pay their respects to Surdyke.

With Will James

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