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Pair tried to save man drowning in Benson lake

Posted July 25, 2012
Updated July 26, 2012

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— It should have been fun in the sun at Benson's Tucker Lake Wednesday as Laura Baer celebrated her daughter's birthday with friends.

But around 3:30 p.m. Monday, the fun was brought to a halt when Laura Baer suddenly heard a man in the water screaming for help.

"I ran in the water, thinking he needed help, and I didn't see anybody struggling or anything, so I got out of the water to try to get help," Baer said Wednesday.

Heather Smith, at the lake with her children, too, also heard the cry.

"I turned around and yelled," she said. "At that point, all of the lifeguards descended upon that area into the water."

The man in trouble was Clifford Lee, 24, of Fayetteville.

"It seems the water was very dark in that area, very hard to see. A lot of vegetation was in the water," Smith said.

Someone finally found Lee and pulled him to shore.

"Somebody started doing chest compressions, but no one was doing rescue breaths, so I started doing CPR," Baer said.

It was about 15 minutes before paramedics arrived, the women said. Tucker Lake Pair tried to save man drowning in Benson lake

"We just said some prayers and tried to comfort him as best we could," Smith said.

"I never found a pulse," Baer said. "He never took a breath."

Lee had been swimming with his fiancée in the lake's swimming area off Allens Crossroads Road.

She made it to shore, but, investigators say, Lee, for some reason, went under.

"I just keep replaying it over and over in my head. Could I have done something differently?" Baer said. "In my heart, I know I did all I could do."


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  • mypaint Jul 26, 2012

    lbbaer as a friend of Cliffs mother we would like to thank you for everything you done to try and save his life. if there is any way it can be arranged his mother could speak to you she would love to. she however has no internet. and yes for the record it is my understanding that he could swim.

  • lbbaer Jul 26, 2012

    landshark I would be very interested in reading some of those studies. The American Heart Association recommends that if you are a lone rescuer that initiate chest compressions before ventilations and do so at a rate of 100/minute. The sequence is now C-A-B, changed from A-B-C. In this particular case, two young men had already started the chest compressions, I stepped in to do the ventilations.
    I agree with you about going into water if you are not a swimmer. From what I have learned over the past few days is that Cliff could actually swim. His girlfriend got into trouble and he was able to push her to safety. It was at this point he went under. I do not know why.... I was told he had asthma and may have had an asthma attack.

  • concerncitizen Jul 26, 2012

    Understand I don't swim, but I do not understand why anyone would get into water where if you a unlucky enough to go under and can not get yourself out, and others can see you to help you get out. Why don't you have on a life vest? If you are in a swimming pool with clear water, you have a chance of being seen. You might not want a vest. Near pond, river and lake water put on a vest. Put one on children also!!!

  • concerncitizen Jul 26, 2012

    Studies have determined rescue breaths can do more harm than help in some cases.... Chest compressions are recmended as safe in all cases. In most cases some air is still in the body so chest compressions can push that air to the brain which is the first to get the most harm... Breathing air into a person mouth who has water in the lungs might do more harm....

  • The Fox Jul 26, 2012

    [Rescue breaths are now no longer considered as essential as getting the heart pumping blood to the brain and other essential organs.]+1 That's what is being taught in the CPR classes the past few years.

  • topfan4unc Jul 26, 2012

    Rescue breaths are now no longer considered as essential as getting the heart pumping blood to the brain and other essential organs. It can be done, but is not the most efficient way to save someone. All the breathing in the world does no good if the heart doesn't start breathing. Those updates are taught each year or two during the training or recertification.

  • Uhavenoclu Jul 26, 2012

    I would like to know why the lifeguards were not doing rescue breaths?

    They did the best they could,when you are in a situation like that you do what you know and the best according to what the situation and conditions are to try and save the person.You do not have time to sit and prepare and think how to do it.The person would probably have been in worse condition if they took their time planning.
    No on has said this yet but thank you Laura and everyone there for trying the best you could.

  • lbbaer Jul 26, 2012

    Iwasthinkin...... You are absolutely correct! Chest compressions should be the first priority. If you are the only one doing CPR then it is important to just focus on doing chest compressions and not stop to do rescue breaths. The American Heart Assoc. says "rescue breathing is still recommended for children and anyone whose cardiac arrest is likely due to oxygen deprivation". There were a couple of young men taking turns doing chest compressions while I focused on the rescue breaths. It was truly a group effort from the very beginning.

  • lbbaer Jul 26, 2012

    I can only imagine it had something to do with the fact that all of them had just ran, swam and repeatedly dove down searching for Cliff. I was already on the beach and just jumped in once they got Cliff to shore.

  • lbbaer Jul 26, 2012

    I do want to add that there were MANY other people that helped on Monday. There were at least 15, maybe 20 people diving down and searching for Cliff. It was a huge effort by a lot of people to save this young mans life. I truly wish that we would have had a much different outcome. Please continue to keep Cliff's family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.