Ordinary People Showing Extraordinary Heroism

Caleta Tankah (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

Yesterday, June 23rd, was one of the first sunny days in almost a week and we decided to take full advantage of it. Since we had some friends visiting from Florida, we decided to take them to one of the most picturesque beaches in the area, Caleta Tankah. We also invited several of our friends who live here locally.

Caleta Tankah is located just north of the Mayan ruins in Tulum. In fact, you can see part of the ruins from the beach.

The thing that makes Caleta Tankah unique from the other beaches in the area is that it has a small sandy inlet that is fed by a steady flow of fresh water. It creates a crystal-clear pool that is substantially cooler than the Caribbean waters only a few feet away.

Although there is a substantial current pushing out to the Caribbean, it is still comfortable to stand on the sandy bottom and enjoy the view without any danger at all. There is a safety cable installed to keep people from venturing beyond the point where the water becomes too deep to stand in order to prevent them from being swept away by the strong current.

Since I took so much time to explain the area of the inlet, the safety cable and the extremely strong current, you can probably guess where this story is headed.

While my friends and I were standing waist deep in the inlet talking, we observed two men swim under the safety cable and toward the point where the inlet opens up into the Caribbean. We all stopped talking and watched them. One of my friends even made the comment, “That’s a bad idea.”

Less than 30 seconds later, they were both in trouble and trying to fight the current to get back into the inlet. The younger of the two swam as hard as he could against the current until he was close enough that I could grab him and pull him to the cable. His friend, an older gentleman, was swept farther out. His family members were yelling to him but they were helpless to do anything.

Near the entrance to the inlet, there was a sign warning of the rip current. It also contained instructions of what to do in the event that you were caught in the current. It advised that you should swim either left or right along the coast to escape the current and then swim to shore.

The man was trying in vain to swim directly against the current and he was getting tired quickly. Everyone was yelling to him in Spanish and pointing to swim to the left down the shore before coming in but he just stayed where he was.

Several employees from the beach club ran down to the shore to assist. After assessing the situation, one employee ran back to the building to get life vests. By this point, the man in the water looked visibly fatigued and he was clearly in danger of drowning.

That’s when the manager, Victor Miguel Hernandez, stripped off his shirt and shoes and dove into the choppy water. He swam out to the man, approximately 25 feet away, and helped to keep him afloat until a second employee arrived with life vests.

Once the man was wearing a life vest, the immediate danger was gone; however, they still had difficulty getting him to shore. Two other employees eventually entered the water to assist in getting him out.

Employees from Caleta Tankah rescuing a swimmer in distress (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

Let’s Wrap This Up

What I witnessed that day was true heroism. I saw people put their lives on the line without hesitation for a complete stranger. That man definitely owes his life to them and I hope that reflected in his tip when he paid his bill.

You know that this group of heroes did next? A couple of them tended to some minor wounds on the soles of their feet caused by the jagged rocks and then they all went back to work – still soaking wet from the experience.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) is a former lieutenant from the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida. During his 25-year career, he received numerous commendations to include two of the agency's top honors: a Meritorious Service Medal and a Medal of Valor. In 2015, Paul retired and moved to Mexico with his wife. He now spends his days enjoying the Riviera Maya and blogging from the beach.

23 Comments on "Ordinary People Showing Extraordinary Heroism"

  1. That’s Mexico and the wonderful Mexican people.
    Another reason we love living here.

  2. Vincie Giles | June 24, 2017 at 9:27 am | Reply

    The heroism of the ” common” man never ceases to amaze me, what a great story! By the way, neither does he stupidity!

  3. Karen Ladron de Guevara | June 24, 2017 at 9:28 am | Reply

    There are so many levels to this story showing the true Mexico. Thank you.

  4. Karla Hinton | June 24, 2017 at 9:54 am | Reply

    Caleta Tankah is one of those places that when I post pictures, everybody wants to know where it is. I am torn between telling them or not. I usually say jokingly that if I tell you, I will have to kill you. I like it there because it is not crowded, and I want to keep it that way. I know that is selfish, but tourists have a way of ruining things for the locals. On the other hand, I want the business owner to prosper. Such a conundrum!

  5. I love the Mexico and the Mexican people. This is why I go to Isla Mujeres every year and keep increasing my time there with my husband. We love everything about it.

  6. That man was, indeed, very fortunate…great heroism on the part of strangers! Moral: Obey those signs, they are there for a reason…

  7. Great blog article. Makes you feel good inside to know there are still selfless people out there. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I just started reading your blog and am very much enjoying it. We’ve been to Quintana Roo six times over the years. It’s one of my favorite places in all the world, but very expensive to fly there from Phoenix. (Btw, typo near the end. I think you meant “jagged” rocks.)

  9. I often wondered how you got to that beach. My friend lives in Tulum….and she’s never mentioned it….

  10. yep, agreed that is just how it is in mexico- they will go out of their way to help someone in need in so many ways, and when I’m in the US, I get very disappointed, I am so use to men assisting and get very disappointed when I don’t see it here in the US

  11. Thanks for this great and important story. I think I will use it as an example the next time someone says to me “Oh, Mexico. Did you feel safe there? Isn’t it dangerous?”, referring to the locals. We just spent 3 weeks in Akumal, and I felt safer there than many places I have been in the US, and the locals were warm, helpful, friendly and patient with my attempts to speak Spanish. Can’t wait to go back.

  12. Mark Hensley | June 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Reply

    When my niece passed away on Adventuras Akamal beach May last year, people who did not know her tried to revive and keep her alive until the paramedics arrived. I have nothing but admiration for the locals down there. One huge reason we keep going back and looking to buy a house and retire. Beautiful people.

  13. Kelly Fowler | June 24, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Reply

    What a great story and one of the reasons we, too, love Mexico so much! Thanks for the needed change in perspective today!

    Just started following your blog. We’ve been visiting MX for years – first time in Akumal was 30 years ago! We camped on the beach for three months back then. I grew up camping in Puerto Penasco as a kid – my parents would drive from Phoenix. Now we’re no more than a year from making the leap to retirement and at least half-timing it in Q.Roo. We also lived in Spain and are torn between Europe and MX … but, I digress. Thanks again for the uplifting post!

  14. Ethel aka Fran | June 24, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Reply

    God bless those heroes and thank God all survived!

  15. Nothing like a hero. Thanks for sharing this story.

  16. That’s such a great example of everything that’s so great about Mexico and Mexican people. Great article. Thanks for sharing the story

  17. Paul, I also was surprised by a strong current at outskirts and stayed away. So I know exactly how strong it is! It was very unwise for those 2 men to discard the warnings. I just lost someone to drowning. The men who put themselves into rescue are true heroes!

  18. Great story, thank you.

  19. Thanks for sharing! Great heros indeed!

  20. Paul,

    Thank you for sharing that story. Great people, great country! Can’t wait to be there permanently!

  21. Speaks volumes about our own experiences in Mexico, such a wonderful country filled with caring, hardworking, family centric people.

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