Laura Recco, a teacher at Positive Education Program School in Cleveland, Ohio, died Wednesday morning after rescuing two students from rough Lake Erie waters at the Cleveland Metroparks Huntington Beach on Monday.
Five students and four teachers from PEP -- a nonprofit that works with children with Autism and other special needs -- were visiting the beach Monday morning when two students were pulled into deeper water by a wave, The Morning Journal reports.
Recco, 49, went in after them and brought one student safely to shore before going back into the water after 9-year-old Diamond Harris. She was accompanied by five Metroparks lifeguards, bystander Clint Kranes and a male-coworker.
The group pulled Harris out first before retrieving Recco, who was pulled under a wave. She was unresponsive upon being brought to shore.
“My daughter said she was holding onto the woman and trying to pull her in but my daughter was going under and another guard was going under and it was just unbelievable,” Maureen Fay, one of the lifeguard’s mothers, told Fox 8.
Recco, Harris and 19-year-old lifeguard Christian Pesarchick were all taken to St. John Medical Center; Pesarchick was released Monday and Harris was transferred to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where she was later discharged on Tuesday.
Recco was listed in critical condition before being pronounced dead at 5:04 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The PEP group arrived at the beach around 9:30-9:45 a.m., according to the police report. A spokesperson from the organization told Fox 8 that the students and teachers were enjoying a “special end of school outing.”
The incident occurred around 10:45 a.m., as lifeguards were arriving and putting up a warning flag. The beach has lifeguards on duty from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and according to director of marketing Jane Christyson, a sign is posted that says people are cautioned to swim at their own risk before 11 a.m.
The police report stated that waves were 4 to 6 feet with whitecaps and the winds were 15 to 25 knots. There was also a rip current warning in effect until 8 p.m.
“It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we report that our beloved colleague, Laura Recco, passed away this morning,” read a PEP school statement, according to NewsNet5. “Laura was one of our very finest teachers. Uniquely skilled at helping children build competencies, she was committed to helping every child know some joy in each day. We thank many in our community for their support and kindness and hope that people will continue to keep Laura’s family in their thoughts and prayers."
Recco was honored as PEP Hopewell's Teacher-Counselor of the Year in 2006.