Charlestown officer rescues swimmer in trouble

A Charlestown police officer rescues a swimmer in trouble on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

A 55-year-old tourist who ignored a no swimming sign in Charlestown nearly lost his life.

"I saw that police were here, so I came out and grabbed my camera," said Richard McCaffrey, who witnessed the unfolding rescue drama.

McCaffrey watched as a police officer risked his own life, dove into the surf and swam 55-year-old Michael Novak out of a rip current, back to safety.

Novak ignored the signs telling him not to swim during Wednesday's storm.

"The guy that was rescued, he just looked pretty much terrified," McCaffrey said.

"About 2:30 we got a 911 call reporting a swimmer in distress," said Sgt. Philip Gingerella, of the Charlestown Police Department.

Gingerella is the hero in this story. He arrived at the scene before the rescue crews did and relied on his instincts. Luckily for the struggling swimmer, Gingerella is a former life guard.

Gingerella said any other officer might not have been crazy enough to dive into what he described as 10 to12 foot waves.

"Yesterday could have been a lot worse. Luckily, there was a team with me and I was strong enough to get him. But if we hadn't been here, who knows what would have happened to him," Gingerella said.

Gingerella said he hopes the close call will serve as a lesson for all swimmers tempted to test Mother Nature's strength.

"Please watch the signs. If the signs say don't go in the water, please don't go in the water," Gingerella said.