Mercy senior rescues teens from ocean in South Carolina

Lilly Pierce, a lifeguard at American Turners-Louisville sports and social club, sat in her lifeguard chair June 22. Lilly rescued two teens from the ocean in Myrtle Beach, S.C. during a trip in early June. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

While traveling for an archery tournament in South Carolina, an Archdiocese of Louisville student used her training as a lifeguard — and her belief in helping others — to rescue two teens from the ocean.

Lilly Pierce, a senior at Mercy Academy, said she, her family and friends were spending time on the beach June 11, a day after a successful national archery tournament.

She and her younger sister, Lucy, competed in the National Archery in the Schools Program Open Championship Tournament in Myrtle Beach. 

Lilly Pierce, left, and her younger sister Lucy Pierce, swam at American Turners-Louisville sports and social club June 22. Lilly rescued two teens from the ocean during a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., in early June. The family was visiting the beach after the girls competed in the National Archery in the Schools Program Open Championship Tournament nearby. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Lucy won first place in the middle school girls’ division of the tournament with a score of 294 out of 300. She has just completed eighth grade at Sacred Heart Model School and will be a freshman at Sacred Heart Academy this fall.

On the beach, 17-year-old Lilly and her friends were walking along the shore when she heard screams for help.

“Every adult was too far away. The lifeguards’ post was too far away for them to see,” Lilly said, recounting the rescue. Assessing the situation, her lifeguard training kicked in. She asked her friends to get help and she ran into the ocean where a girl was barely treading water and a boy was clinging to the pilings of a pier.

Katrina Pierce, center, posed for a photo with her daughters Lilly, left, and Lucy, at American Turners-Louisville sports and social club June 22. Lilly rescued two teens from the ocean during a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., in early June. The family was visiting the beach after the girls competed in the National Archery in the Schools Program Open Championship Tournament. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“The tide was so strong,” Lilly said. First, she rescued the girl. “I grabbed her and pulled her out. She was exhausted and had been struggling. She could barely keep her head above water.” 

Heading back into the water, Lilly said she saw the boy was bleeding from scratches on his chest where he was battered against the piling. She began helping him to shore when adults — alerted by Lilly’s friends — formed a chain to bring him in the rest of the way, she said.

Water safety and the church’s teaching to help others have always been important to the Pierce family, said Katrina Pierce, Lilly’s and Lucy’s mother. She believes both came into play on the day of the rescue.

“Being a teacher and a Catholic, you’re taught to give back. From a young age, they’ve been taught to give back and to help others in need,” said Pierce during a recent interview at American Turners-Louisville sports and social club on River Road, where Lilly works as a lifeguard.

Lucy Pierce, a freshman at Sacred Heart Academy, held an archer’s bow and a plaque she received for winning first place in the middle school girls’ division of the National Archery in the Schools Program Open Championship Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., June 10. (Photo Special to The Record)

Sitting poolside at Turners on June 22, Pierce reflected on what her daughter had done. She was unaware of the rescue when Lilly walked up to her on the beach and nonchalantly said, “I did my good deed for today.”

“I thought she’d picked up garbage or helped a little kid put their goggles on,” said Pierce. 

She noted that Lilly hasn’t fully grasped the depth of her actions. 

“She risked her life and I’m thankful it turned out the way it did,” she said with tears welling in her eyes.   

Lilly didn’t have the opportunity to say anything to the two young people she rescued because they were carried off to get the medical attention they needed, but one of the parents expressed their gratitude, she said. 

“I would do it again,” Lilly added.

Lilly Pierce, left, and her younger sister Lucy Pierce, swam at American Turners-Louisville sports and social club June 22. Lilly rescued two teens from the ocean during a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., in early June. The family was visiting the beach after the girls competed in the National Archery in the Schools Program Open Championship Tournament nearby. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
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